Words for Worlds of Values

“The Constitution of South Africa speaks of both the past and the future.  On the one hand, it is a solemn pact in which we, as South Africans, declare to one another that we shall never permit a repetition of our racist, brutal and repressive past. But it is more than that.  It is also a charter for the transformation of our country into one which is truly shared by all its people – a country which in the fullest sense belongs to all of us, black and white, women and men.”  Former President Nelson Mandela. From the foreword to The Post-Apartheid Constitutions: Perspectives on South Africa’s Basic Law

The South Africa Constitution was the result of intensive negotiations that were carried out with an acute awareness of the injustices of the country’s non-democratic past.  It is now widely regarded as the most progressive Constitution in the world, with a “Bill of Rights” second to none.

Having such an inclusive and exceptional Constitution, highlights the need for a practical approach in the long journey of implementing the “Bill of Rights”.

Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, stated that there is a national consensus in the country for an immediate need to improve our values and morals.  Initiated by the National Religious Forum, and driven by the Chief Rabbi and the National Department of Basic Education, The “Bill of Responsibilities” was created to meet this need.

The “Bill of Responsibilities” is the mirror image of the “Bill of Rights” and therefore inherits its political and social legitimacy.  I personally believe that it will create an interest beyond the borders of South Africa.  In light of changes that technology has embarked on us, there is a call worldwide for revisiting values and morals.

The Chief Rabbi in his inspirational speech at the recent “Bill of responsibilities” Launch of the Teachers’ Guide said “words create worlds”.  Words reflect the way we see the world.  What words are our children raised on?

The “Bill of Responsibilities” has the words of tolerance and integrity, compassion and justice, human dignity and equality, and consequently has the potential of creating worlds of morals and values upon which our future is raised.

ORT SA has pledged to incorporate the “Bill of Responsibilities” “in house”, establishing role models within our organisation.  Thereafter we will be incorporating it in our training of teachers, aiming at establishing a new “language” for teaching and learning.  We use the words of the “Bill of Responsibilities” and add the tools of Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to equip our teachers with the tools to teach the “new language”.

An example of this integrated approach is derived from one of our most basic needs – communication.  The right to speak comes from freedom of speech, rooted strongly in the Constitution.  But, our right to speak comes with the responsibility to listen.  In training, we bring in the tool of Covey’s ” 5th Habit, “Seek first to understand before you understood” or “Listen before you talk”.  Simple, but yet so basic.

Everyone has the right to education, but whatever role we hold, we have responsibilities too. As learners, we are responsible to come to school on time, obey the rules and dedicate our efforts to learning , as Educators, we hold the responsibility of being at school on time, teaching, and as Government, Parent Bodies and NGO’s, we hold the responsibility for ensuring that we provide the environment for teaching and learning, and prioritising education on our agendas.

Historical enemies succeeded in negotiating a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, exactly because we were prepared to accept the inherent capacity for goodness in the other.  My wish is that South Africans never give up on the belief in goodness, that they cherish that faith in human beings as a cornerstone of our democracy.”  Former President Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s trust in the goodness of human beings, reassures us that it is possible to regain values and morals in a society that has already walked a long way.

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