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Learning Brief


Zisize Ingwavuma Educational Trust

Abaqophi BakwaZisize Abakhanyayo children’s radio project: Helping children have their voice heard

Category: Creative Learners | Reading Promotion | 21 January, 2014 - 18:00

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Project background

The Abaqophi BakwaZisize Abakhanyayo children’s radio project provides children growing up in rural northern KwaZulu-Natal with the skills and support they need to depict their lives and perspectives, using radio as a vehicle. The children produce broadcast-quality radio programmes in a variety of formats, with a particular focus on ‘radio diaries’. In addition to distributing their programmes via the web, they host a regular show on the local community radio station.  

Since 2005, participant children have produced programmes focused on a wide range of experiences and concerns. Their radio diary programmes, in particular, present intimate narratives aspects of their lives.

What we have learnt from children about their lives

We have been astounded by the ways in which the children repeatedly speak directly into silences in their families and in their communities, using their role as reporters to draw interviewees’ and listeners’ attention to issues that trouble them.  A dominant narrative runs throughout the programmes: the children persistently highlight their distress resulting from experiences of marginalisation from information, dialogue, or situations of importance to them. For example, the concealment of a parent’s death; a mother’s unexplained move away; the silence about a father’s identity, exclusion from a caregiver’s funeral, a lack of consultation about a change in a child’s residence, among others. These exclusions are often adults’ attempts to protect children. In contrast however, the children’s programmes consistently point – sometimes subtly, sometimes directly – to their need for information, for inclusion, in order to cope or cope better with their circumstances.

At Zisize, we have become more aware of the extent of children’s consciousness of - and astute insight into - their worlds, as well as the need to involve children in issues that affect them.

Implications of this learning for our organization

Over the years, as a result of the lessons we’ve learned from the Abaqophi, we have shifted some of the ways in which we engage children in our organisation. Here are a few examples:

  • We have instituted a Children’s Forum. This is a group of 22 children who are representatives of all the children who benefit from Zisize programmes within the schools. This group started meeting at the beginning of 2012, and meet once per term. Each of the 11 schools that Zisize works with is represented by two children (a boy and a girl).  The purpose of the forum is to provide a platform for the children where they can give feedback to Zisize on the programmes offered, how to improve them, and for them to share their experiences. It also serves a place where these young people can discuss different issues affecting them and find ways of overcoming their common challenges at home, in the community and at school.
  • At the small group residential home operated by Zisize, children residents were explicitly involved in the process to develop a disciplinary code for the facility.
  • After repeated instances in which children expressed their need for meaningful inclusion in matters of illness and death, staff agreed to request children’s presence in the grieving hut when they visit to pay their respects to bereaved families. This is a place of comfort and grieving from which children are commonly excluded. 

Implementation Challenges: The children’s radio programmes (indirectly) challenge Zisize to advocate for improved intergenerational communication and consultation with children in households. To do this requires great sensitivity considering the cultural context, and is contested even within our own organisation. Not everyone in the organisation shares the same philosophy that children be included in decision-making, perhaps in part because they haven’t been exposed to the children’s messages in the same way as those working in the radio project.  Our organisation hopes to increase the awareness amongst its staff and the schools about issues affecting children, and about child participation in its programmes. This will be done in collaboration with project staff and the organisation’s social worker during staff meetings and school principals’ meetings.

Implications of this learning for other organisations

Organisations providing services to children can strengthen their services, and their relationships with the children they serve, by engaging them in programme development and evaluations.

Similarly, the project’s experience suggests that there would be significant benefits for children’s sense of well being if parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults were able to shift the ways they think about and communicate with children.

Plans for the future

The project team (a collaboration between Zisize Educational Trust and the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town) plans to explore models for extending the broadcast and use of the children’s programmes, with the aim of reaching and informing a wider audience about children’s experiences and needs.


Ingwavuma, Kwa-Qatha Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal  


 (035) 572 5500


 www.zisize.org/

In Short

In this learning brief the Zisize Ingwavuma Educational Trust provides insight into the distress children experience when they are marginalized from information, dialogue, or situations of importance to them. They have used this knowledge to make three changes to their programme that expands the power and influence of children in the organization’s decision-making process. Other organisations can strengthen their services, and their relationships with the children, by engaging children in programme development and evaluations.


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