We, as members of the Backpackers Programme team, believe that all children, given a safe context in which to explore their developmental and societal challenges, can learn the life skills needed to journey responsibly and safely towards reaching their full potential in life.
The South African Schools Act (1996) stipulates that all South African public schools with learners from Grade 8 upwards are required to establish Representative Councils of Learners (RCLs). These are the only legitimate, legal learner leadership structures in schools. Currently most schools elect Representative Councils of Learners (RCLs) but these learners are generally not equipped with the knowledge, skills and values with which to effectively carry out their roles and responsibilities.
In 2006 the GM South Africa Foundation became aware of the need to develop a training programme to prepare the members of RCLs to competently and effectively carry out their roles and responsibilities. In that same year the Foundation commenced with the writing of a RCL programme to achieve this purpose. The programme is designed for use by Teacher Liaison Officers or other educators as facilitators in training RCL members.
The programme is structured in a series of interactive workshops around the following topics: An introduction to the RCL (structure, roles and responsibilities);
As the programme has a strong focus on life skills and development, it equips learners with skills, knowledge and values that have relevance beyond the RCL.
The GMSAF has assisted the PE District Office to provide all Port Elizabeth schools with RCLs with a copy of the programme and to train them in its use. The GMSAF has also assisted the North West DoE by training facilitators to present the programme to all schools within that Province.
The programme was piloted in August 2006 with 14 secondary schools from within the Nelson Mandela Metropole. During February 2008 the piloted programme was rolled out in conjunction with the Port Elizabeth Department of Education District Office to 53 schools in the Port Elizabeth District.
The first workshop in the programme begins by introducing RCL members to their core functions and how their meetings should be chaired and run effectively. Other workshops include the following areas: personal growth, leadership, team building, creating a peaceful learning environment, time-management and action planning. The workshops also provide an opportunity for learners to get to know each other better and to reflect on crucial matters regarding meeting the needs of learners in the school.
The workshops are intended to be interactive and an attempt is made to provide a variety of different methods and styles in order to work through the subject matter. During the course of piloting this programme it was also brought to the project team's attention that many schools struggle with assisting learners to elect the most suitable RCL candidates. For this purpose a brief guide to electing RCL members has been included in the programme.