What does freedom mean to you?

In April 2021, we launched the campaign #Freedomtolearn to celebrate the voices of young people within our network and to provide a space for them to share their views without fear or favour. The campaign took the direction of asking critical questions around the perception of what #Freedomtolearn should ideally look like. This was done to use social media for social change. We used mediums of communication that are accessible to the young people we work with.

We began on the 9th of April to wish people a happy month of reflecting on freedom with a call to action, thus:

“Over the years, more and more people have accessed education and they continue to do so. By so doing they have unlocked their #freedomtolearn. Their skills and expert knowledge contribute to the building of a nation rooted in the vision of equal opportunities for all.”

The latter being the backdrop against which the conversation on #FreedomDay2021 would be set, we further asked, “In your own words, how would you define freedom?”

We invited three dynamic young people who have either participated or benefitted from our Bursary and Graduate Programmes who would later join us as panellists to respond to the question. Bantsundu Ncapa, a junior Internal Auditor at GRIPP responded by saying, “Freedom to me is having a choice in all facets of life without being influenced by other people.” The second member of our panel, Bongani Mbekelana, a UCT Postgraduate Candidate responded, “Freedom should be about equality and economic participation.” The third member of our panel, Gentille Iramukunda, a Marketing graduate from Nelson Mandela University responded, “Freedom Day for me symbolises the liberation of the mind and soul to be able to realise and attain one’s goals and dreams no matter the background.”

It became crystal clear to us as the HCI Foundation that, the live event would be much more than just a talk, it was an opportunity for young people to be heard, seen and celebrated. This being the intention, we liaised with the media to afford our panellists an opportunity to engage on a broader platform about their thoughts and feelings as they pertain to freedom. The promotion of the event cut across social media and touched the lives of people outside of our network. The employers, friends, colleagues of these impressive young people joined to rally in support for the incredible minds of these young people.

The interaction and engagement before the event overwhelmed and surprised us in a moving way. The participants on the day spared their time and interacted quite impressively. What was equally noteworthy was the level of engagement that took place in the Facebook comments section while the conversation was in full motion, how the majority of people in the conversation were one way or the other affiliated with the HCI Foundation and how people from different parts of the country stayed for the hour-long conversation and participated fully.

The Facebook live event has since received over 500 views, 10 people sharing the event broadcast on their Facebook timelines, with over 40 comments. In addition, the conversation reached a total of 1535 unique accounts on Facebook alone. Thanks to technology, we were able to share the details of this event and report on the happenings live through our Twitter and LinkedIn platforms.

Tantaswa Andriano Niba who attended the live event suggested, “To add on, I think we should empower others with our resources for their freedom – essentially it is about giving back, identifying needs and doing something about the areas of lack”. While Wandile Msipa said, “To me, freedom is having citizens live their lives to their fullest potentials without having economic, racial and sexuality dictate or hinder their way of life.

There were many other heart-warming and interesting comments during the discussion, and this got us thinking, what more can we do to amplify and elevate the voices of young people about critical issues that affect them and the nation? And, well… to this we have to say, watch the space, we have more exciting things lined up!

Malusi Ntoyapi, in his position as Head of Programmes who did a stellar job of moderating the event, walked away from the conversation feeling more hopeful about the thriving South African future for everyone. He was inspired by the commitment that young people made on taking responsibility for their freedom through paying it forward by supporting and mentoring those who come after us.

“We have learned a whole lot about people we work with and commit to bringing engagement opportunities, programmes and content that appeal to their varying needs. We thank everyone who participated in this conversation.”

Throughout In the conversation we learnt that freedom means different things for different people based on their lived experiences, gender, race and social status. However, we all agreed that freedom to learn is important and that freedom must be transformative and empowering. We learnt that learning does not only happen at school, but it happens everywhere. Therefore, we are all responsible for providing meaningful learning experiences that stimulate our imagination and critical thinking. By doing so, we will become active citizens that contribute towards sustaining our communities and bringing about equality.

The HCI Foundation’s commitment is making a contribution towards ensuring that the quality of education improves particularly in Early Childhood Development in order for children to also have tools that enable them to access their #Freedomtolearn and unleash their potential.

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‘It is our differences that give us the vision and strength to build a better world if we can learn to embrace them.’
Geraldine Machin