It takes a whole village
to raise a child
Youth development in Grahamstown,
Charlotte van Hees
Grahamstown, scene of research
Grahamstown is a town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, characterised
by several topographical features. First, it is called the 'City of Saints
and Sinners', after the presence of the Supreme Court and the Magistrate's
Court and the many churches. The saying goes that there is one church for
every week of the year. Second, Grahamstown is the festival city of South
Africa. Annually three big national festivals take place in Grahamstown,
attracting many (inter)national tourists. Since the city almost has no
industry, the festivals are an important economic motor. Third, Grahamstown
is an educational centre with Rhodes University at the top of the ladder.
Besides Rhodes University, there are many pre-primary schools, primary
schools and secondary schools. Technical training is offered at college
level (Technical College) and through a number of development agencies.
Fourth, the city is still divided in four residential
areas as a result of the segregated society from the apartheid days. Grahamstown
East is one of these residential areas; mostly African people live here.
Besides that it is the poorest residential area, it is also the biggest
area in town and it is still growing every day. The focus of the Youth
for Development project has been on youth from Grahamstown East. Problems
these youths deal with daily are backlogs in the level of education, high
unemployment rates, teenage pregnancy, unsafety from crime and little recreational
facilities. Most of these problems are continuing results of the past (e.g.
access to basic facilities), other can be related to an attitude among
youth (e.g. unsafe sex).
The fifth feature is the presence of numerous NGOs (Non-Governmental
Organisations) and CBOs (Community Based Organisations) committed to the
upliftment of the society. Together with the government departments, these
organisations have been object of my part of the research.
Youth for Development Project
From January 1999 until July 1999, I have done research in Grahamstown.
My research belongs to the research project 'Youth for Development'. This
project is a joint project between the Institute for Social and Economic
Research (ISER) of Rhodes University in Grahamstown and the Centre for
Policy and Management (CBM) of the University of Utrecht. The project focuses
on youth from Grahamstown East, the former black township also known as
Rini, and has two goals.
The overall aim of the project is to match these development opportunities
to the motivations of youth for personal and collective development and
to identify a suitable collective youth programme.
To compile baseline information on Grahamstown East youth in terms of social
characteristics, motivations for personal and collective development, and
expectations for the future. This information is to be used for local youth
development planning and policy formation.
To identify the range of development activities and programmes operating
in Grahamstown in which youth in Grahamstown East can engage.
The ISER asked me to work on the second goal. More specifically,
I was asked to make an inventory of local organisations that cater for
youth development in the broadest sense and a study of the existing links
between these organisations. From January until July 1999, I have visited
organisations in Grahamstown focussing on (youth) development to identify
existing youth programmes and to see how these programmes are incorporated
in the town's context. An extensive directory Youth Development in Grahamstown,
a Social Map is a product of this research. A sample survey is conducted
in May 1999 to compile baseline information on youth from Grahamstown East
in terms of social characteristics, motivations for personal and collective
development and expectations for the future. At the same time a household
survey took place in order to get statistical information on the area,
e.g. number of houses per plot, composition of households, educational
level and employment rates.
Besides compiling the Social Map, I have written my thesis
for my Masters dissertation based on this research. The central question
in my thesis is binomial: 'What are the characteristics of the offer of
development organisations catering for youth in Grahamstown East and what
is the meaning of these characteristics to the youth development work in
One of the characteristics I looked into was youth participation.
I looked at the ways young people themselves are actively involved in youth
development organisations in Grahamstown. In this paper, I will discuss
some of the results regarding youth participation as a method for youth
development in Grahamstown.
Youth participation is one of the high valued principles within the
field of youth development all over the world. Youth participation is on
the one hand a method to enlarge the control of youth on their own living
space and conditions, and on the other hand it is also a way to enlarge
and enforce their involvement within society in general (De Winter, 1995:
63). Young people are addressed to their abilities and qualities, but also
to their value for society. For development organisations this means seeing
youth as potential instead of as a problem (idem: 39). Societal institutions
such as government, the private sector, churches and communities should
institute measures to equip young people to become integrated members of
society and be represented whenever their interests are at stake (Van Zyl
Slabbert et al, 1994: 179). Youth participation can be seen as the goal
and as a method of development work.
There are many different modes of youth participation.
In my research I made use of the participation-ladder designed by Hart1
(in De Winter, 1995: 57-59), describing the different modes of youth participation.
His ladder has eight sports divided in two sections. The first three sports
include activities, in which youth figure, but don't have any form of power.
Youth have been given limited powers from the fourth sport on climbing
up to equal powers between adults and youth on the last sport. In my thesis
I discussed several forms of youth participation, one of them was 'organisations
run by youth'. Organisations run by youth are placed on the seventh sport
on Hart's ladder. When they are taken as a serious counter partner in the
arena that they are active in, they can reach the eighth sport.
Organisations by youth
Grahamstown has several youth projects, run by youth for youth. Radio
Grahamstown, The President's Awards, Synergy, Interchurch Youth and the
Youth Forum are organisations I encountered when I was in Grahamstown.
These organisations are all run by very enthusiastic and motivated youth.
The success of the organisations depends on:
I will use the case of Radio Grahamstown to make this clear.
How motivated the youth are.
How much guidance the youth get from experts.
How the organisation is embedded in town, what their position is in the
What their achievements are, how easily they can obtain their goals. Can
they feel the impact they make with their activities?
Radio Grahamstown is the oldest community radio station in Grahamstown
(founded in 1990). They have a studio at Technical College. Their average
core group is plus/minus ten with a turnover of about forty people. They
have no funding and lean heavily on the Development Media Agency (DMA).
This leads to a big group of willing volunteers that feel committed to
the organisation. Since they don't receive funding, all people working
at the station are volunteers. Some of them are working there almost full-time.
The station is very well known among residents of Grahamstown East and
working at the station does give status. The youth are very enthusiastic
about the station and are dedicated to their work.
Radio Grahamstown received and still receives a lot of
guidance from the Development Media Agency and Rhodes University's Journalism
Department. They have been training and educating the youth to become professional
journalists. Co-ordinator DMA: "When I just got here Radio Grahamstown
was a total mess I told you about these tensions between white and black
groups and it was quite ugly. What we decided to do eventually, myself
and a Canadian Academic who was around at that time, we acted as intermediary
and we dissolved the organisation and build it up again from the ground.
So it was much more township based and focused. And since then, I was then
elected on to the structure. So I was basically token-white on the structure,
which is okay, it worked out fine for a while. So I have been always very
close to the organisation and we always provided training for Radio Grahamstown,
since we got more into training."
Although Radio Grahamstown exists since 1990, the station
doesn't have its own frequency to broadcast from. They make use of the
frequency of Rhodes Music Radio (RMR), which is a student based radio station
affiliated to the Journalism Department of Rhodes University. RMR has a
studio on campus from where they broadcast. RMR gave Radio Grahamstown
airtime twice a week (4 hours). This causes friction between people from
Radio Grahamstown and RMR. Co-ordinator DMA: "They broadcast from campus,
but it is mainly controlled by students on campus, who are predominately
people who come from outside of Grahamstown. What they did was they were
using some time on RMR. They bargained it with RMR and eventually they
got some airtime and in the time it expanded from one hour to three hours
and now it is four hours. Still very little, you have got thirty thousand
people there (Grahamstown East) and a few thousand people on campus. The
need is so much bigger there, it all seems so unfair." Lecturer Journalism
Department Rhodes University: "Rhodes radio is mainly white and they feel
that Radio Grahamstown alienates the regular listeners they have. They
don't work together nicely." The most spoken language on Radio Grahamstown
is Xhosa that many students on campus do not understand.
Besides broadcasting from RMR studios on campus, they
have their own very modern studio in the Technical College, from where
they broadcast with Special Event Licenses. These licenses are valid for
four weeks only and then they are taken out of the air again. Broadcasting
in South Africa is controlled by the Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA).
The fragments of the interview I held with the co-ordinator of the Development
Media Agency (DMA) explain why the radio station doesn't have its own frequency
Interview co-ordinator Development Media Agency (DMA)
"It is a long and very, it is a very long story I can tell
you about Radio Grahamstown, it is a very sad story as well, because it
is very badly treated by the authorisation that license stations. What
happened was (...) in 1994 there was the transition in SA, just before
that there was the IBA act, set up to open up the airway. Late 1994 the
first round of applications, these were temporary licenses, the initial
phase... The group that was working on the radio station at that time were
some people from the township and from town as well. A real tension started
to develop there between the two groups. But basically the group decided
they weren't quit ready to apply for a license.
RMR had been broadcasting on the airways on a frequencies
but with LAN lines (Local Area Network) to the residences on the campus
for along time, 10 years, a lot of experience, they applied for a license
in the first round and they got it. And Radio Grahamstown was told "don't
worry, you can apply in the second round" and that was supposed to happen
a few months later. And the second round never came. Every year they (RMR)
had to get to renew their license and what they did. The people allowed
the people from Radio Grahamstown to come and voice their concerns, but
the IBA never replied to the protests (...).
The radio station (RMR) always has been very right
winged, the university itself is actually very left winged (...) yes they
do change, at the moment there is a fairly strange leadership, but there
is some very good people coming through (...). Radio Grahamstown has been
a fairly good station in the sense that they have been on air through (...).
They have a very strong team with skills, we have been training them for
a very long time as well. So you have people who can't wait to get on air
and they can't you know. It has been very difficult.
Two hundred initiatives throughout the country applied
for that (a four year license) and in the Eastern Cape 24, about 10% of
the national license applications. And Radio Grahamstown is one of them,
they got their application at the beginning of last year in January and
now they have been told, they already waited a year, it was supposed to
be heard in April-May last year. Now they are saying they will be heard
a little over the year 2000. So they have to wait another two year for
the IBA and for this organisation gets a budget of 40 million Rand a year,
has enormous resources, incredibly big buildings and poach offices, literally
since 1996, so by the time they go on air it will be 4,5 years since their
initial attempt to get a license. It is shocking, a disgrace. (...)
The IBA has a terrible history. There was corruption,
they just ran out these huge bills, millions of Rand were wasted. The government
started to get embarrassed about it and started to make noises about squeezing
the funds, while the powers behind the IBA the policy making body of an
independent organisation, the government took that over. That was precisely
what we fought against in the first place. Because of these financial problems
and the bureaucratic mess that they found themselves in the budgets were
People spend thousands of Rands on (...) taping all
the programs on air, sending them to the IBA, the IBA never listens to
them. They have like 20 copies of your application, the application form
is too difficult to fill in, especially for the people in the rural area's
and so on. It is middle class corruption, you know there are some good
people in the IBA, and it is the structural problems I think. (...) So
it is very very deeply frustrating and yes on the youth questions you're
looking at just about every one of those 23 license applications are applications
driven by youth."
I have conducted my research within the field of organisation anthropology.
The arena model is one of the theories used for analysing data within anthropology.
The arena is a symbol to refer to the field of action that is studied.
It is a social system in which actors or individuals meet each other and
interact. Different characteristics such as culture, power, rationality,
interdependence and stratification determine the position of the social
actors involved. Competition is inherent to the arena, resulting in battles.
Within one arena, different issues are at stake, resulting in several battles
at the same time. The results of one battle depend on the results of other
battles fought in the same arena, but also of those fought in other arenas
(interdependence). An organisation is not a closed entity on its own. Its
behaviour, its power in the work related field all depend on its context:
moves of other organisations, politics in the country, province or town,
the history of the organisation etc.
Concluding, one can say that the enormous motivation of
the youth and the guidance they receive from other expert organisations
in the arena are factors for Radio Grahamstown to succeed. However, the
one factor that prevents the station from achieving its goal lays outside
the youth development area in Grahamstown. The case of Radio Grahamstown
showed the interdependence of decisions made on national level, by the
IBA. Not having own frequencies causes a lot of frustration among the youth.
They are restricted to four hours per week on RMR and special event licenses.
They got dependent of another radio station with a different target group
and different ideas about programmes. This causes many frictions between
people from RMR and Radio Grahamstown.
Also shown in this case is the importance of the position
in the own arena. The station depends on the generosity of RMR to give
them airtime, which puts them in a dependent position. The support they
receive from organisations in the own arena, such as DMA and Rhodes' Journalism
Department strengthens their position in the arena.
De Winter refers to the publication: R.A. Hart, 'Children's
Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship." In: UNICEF Innocenti Essays,
4, Florence, 1992.
- Martin, J., 1992. Culture in organisations: Three
perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Van Zyl Slabbert, F., C. Malan, H. Marais, J. Olivier
& R. Riordan (ed.), 1994. Youth in the new South Africa. Pretoria:
- Winter, M. de, 1995. Kinderen als medeburgers: Kinder-
en jeugdparticipatie als opvoedingsperspectief. Utrecht: De Tijdstroom.