Valued Citizens Initiative will launch its fifth publication named – Voices.Values.Vision on Friday, 25 February 2022, at the Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The timing of this publication launch coincides with celebrations of the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s Constitution. This unique publication covers impressions, and expressions by South African youth.

Voices.Values.Vision also showcases original visual art, poetry, and prose written by the youth. This book is the result of a dialogue programme translated into visual art and poetry held in 30 public high schools involving 987 Grade 9 to 11 learners from across the country.

Known as the Sondela Open Dialogues, the programme aims to assert the Constitution as the cornerstone for human dignity through, among other means, to develop literacy on human rights and citizenry.

Importantly, the open dialogues give youth a platform for them to voice their aspirations and dreams as well as frustrations and challenges. Furthermore, they then seek solutions they articulate together through teamwork and social cohesion.

Young people are vocal about the inequalities in education from rural to urban spaces, from public to private schools and they are demanding that: “Quality education should cut across all races to ensure that everyone enjoys the benefits brought about our democracy.

“We are the youth, we are the children of South Africa”.

“Why are you saying we are tomorrow’s leaders and yet we do not have access to educational tools that will release us from the shackles of poverty?”

On slow responses to challenges, a young person asked: “Why do we wait for a serious moment of adversity to occur before we are able to act united as one people?” Whereas aspirations included demands such as: “What we want is to grow-up in communities where we feel there is a rule of law and order; our parents having access to their constitutional rights and playing a stronger role as positive role-models”.

Another comment on gender stated: “This is the time to acknowledge boys’ emotions and tears in the same way we do for girls, as this will teach young men to express their hurt or anger and will enable them to show love and respect for the dignity of others”.

The publication is enriched with opinion pieces by thought leaders ranging from political to social and business arenas. These contributors give substance to what is important for young South Africans to value, build and live by.

In this, it makes for a holistic picture of current thought among young people in South Africa.

As the principles of the Constitution are the fabric that holds the content of the book together.

In one of the forewords written by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr. John Jeffery, refers to the words of former Chief Justice Pius Langa when he spoke of the transformative nature of the Constitution.

Justice Langa said at the time: “This is a magnificent goal for a Constitution: to heal the wounds of the past and guide us to a better future. For me, this is a core idea of transformative constitutionalism: that we must change”.

One of the thought leaders Professor Bonang Mohale, President of Business Unity South Africa and Chancellor of the University of the Free State wrote: “We have a unique opportunity not to anchor after the old nor the new but instead co-create and co-craft a better normal … to signify a major break with the past and deliver a fundamental restructuring of all aspects of South African society”.

The key message for readers is that the youth want to be generation builders.

Carole Podetti-Ngono, founder of Valued Citizens Initiative said: “It was gratifying to witness the youth, both at dialogue sessions and then in producing content for a publication, pouring their heart and soul into this nation building project which they felt was more than timely.

“It is well-known that the youth believe they are not being heard.

“They look for opportunities to vent their innermost feelings and hopes and a platform like Sondela, which is independent fulfilled that need.”

Podetti-Ngono said the publication covers all spectrums of thought and all who contributed were free to express their views whether conventional or controversial so that the reader is invited to “dwell on each page and explore their own truth.”

Esethu Cenga, co-founder and CEO of Rewoven declared: “The time is now for us, as young people, to ideate our future, plan and create a new kind of world”.

Cenga won the Mandela Rhodes Foundation Äänit Prize 2021. This publication is an incentive to achieve this goal.