Project Aim

To overcome the ongoing and persistent racial prejudice and xenophobia that bedevils our society

< style="font-family: arial;">Background

Despite its progressive Constitution, it has never been squarely acknowledged that anyone brought up in South Africa with its painful history, would be subject to racial feeling to a greater or lesser extent, as racism has been woven into the very fabric of our society. We take as our starting point that what is not acknowledged cannot be changed, and that overcoming ingrained racism must be an ongoing commitment and practice. 

The Diversity Project began in 2005, eleven years after the advent of democracy, as a response to the race-related killing of a learner at a high school on the Cape. The project started as a pilot series of workshops with both Grade 6 learners and teachers at the Kairos Primary School in Delft, a mixed race township some 20 minutes outside Cape Town, where the struggle for scarce resources inevitably takes on a racial character.

From the experience of the pilot workshops it became clear that the children took their cue from the adults around them and it was thus decided to focus on teachers. In 2007 we began diversity workshops for teachers at the Leiden Avenue Primary School in Delft and also started trilingual language classes in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English classes for the teachers at Kairos Primary School, as the inability to speak one another’s languages had been identified as a primary barrier between teachers. All these workshops were positively evaluated by the teachers at the end of 2007.

By 2008, the invaluable experience and knowledge gained from the pilot workshops in the Delft primary schools was put to creative use: recognising that discussion of racial issues remains a painful and uncomfortable experience for most South Africans, it was decided to create a story as a way of capturing attention and focussing on issues which are otherwise very hard to talk about – or indeed – even to think about.

What the Diversity Project does

< style="font-family: arial;">Our principal tool to encourage thinking and discussion about issues that are too often denied or thrust out of sight, is thus our audio drama series which features the same two main characters, Carmen and Thando, who live in Delft.  There are now three 45-minute audio dramas in the series.  < style="font-family: arial;">The first, entitled “Carmen and Thando” is the story of a relationship developing between a mixed race girl, and an adolescent black boy living in a “transit camp”. The couple have to grapple with and confront racial prejudice in order to develop a relationship in face of the struggle for scarce resources, like housing, which divide their communities.

< style="font-family: arial;">In 2009, the second drama in the series of three was recorded. This one, “The Further Adventures of Carmen and Thando” focussed on corruption and its connection to xenophobia, following the horrific outbreak of violence against black foreigners in 2008.  < style="font-family: arial;">In June 2010, the third drama in the series was recorded. This one, “To Be a Man”, featuring Carmen and Thando again, looks at issues of bullying and coercion around sex, traditional circumcision and what it might mean to be a man in today’s fast-changing South Africa. 

The series forms part of the Training of Trainers programme under the auspices of our Non-Violent Schools Campaign, whereby some 30 teachers from different schools are trained as peace educators once a month on a Saturday over a period of 14 months. They are given workshop notes and questions to assist them to guide discussions after their learners have listened to the CDs. This is happening both in regular school classes and in the peace clubs which teachers who volunteer for the training are obliged to set up in their schools.

< style="font-family: arial;">Teachers and learners alike have responded very positively to the dramas, which have succeeded in creating a safe space for frank discussion where difficult issues can be held up to the light of consciousness. At one school, a teacher offered the first drama to Grade 12 learners, only to find that Grade 11 learners were also demanding it and Grade 10 learners had made themselves pirate copies of the CD! We have found that using a story, with characters with whom the audience can identify, is an effective way of bypassing the emotional barriers engendered by discussion of uncomfortable topics. 

The first drama in the series was broadcast on a community radio station, Bush Radio, as it was recorded on their premises. Broadcasting opportunities will be sought for the series as a whole. The three CDs, together with workshop notes and questions for teachers, will be packaged as a new form of diversity manual.

Target Groups

*      Young people ( ages16 – 18) in Western Cape High schools and Peace Clubs under the auspices of the Non Violent Schools Campaign

*      Teachers in the Training of Trainers Programme referred to above

*      School principals and education authorities via the curriculum material we produce, which is currently being reviewed by the Chief Curriculum Advisor of the South Metropole District of the Western Cape Education Department.

Future 2010-2013

In 2011 we will interview teachers from the Non-Violent Schools Campaign Training of Trainers programme on their own experience of racial prejudice and how they did, or did not, overcome it. This will be used to produce a radio documentary which will be used as part of the Training of Trainers material.  In this way insights and learnings from our various workshops will be captured, crystallised and fed back into the learning cycle

In 2012, we will set up a community radio broadcast with some of our peace club learners discussing their own experiences of diversity.

We will also be interviewing young women in our Young Women in Leadership Project about their experiences and their desires. For many young women, one of the most problematic and difficult areas of their lives is the perceived clash between traditional culture, in which women are often subservient, and the constitutional rights to which all are entitled.  Disagreements are often ascribed to “not respecting our culture “

In 2013, we will begin training interested peace club learners on how to write a radio play themselves. The best of the radio plays will be recorded and fed back into the Non-Violent Schools Campaign Training of Trainers programme. We believe this will promote the learners’ self esteem as well as developing the skills to express themselves. 

We will also start work on a film script based on the Carmen and Thando audio plays with the intention of seeking funding to make a film for TV.


*      In 2007, the project leader attended the “Seventh International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations” in Amsterdam and presented a paper on our work in Delft entitled “No Shortcuts” based on what we had learned about the process of coming to terms with racial prejudice.

*      This work was also published as an article in the international peace magazine, New Routes, in 2007.

*      An article analysing the xenophobic attacks of 2008 entitled “Counting the cost of our descent: Xenophobia in South Africa today” was published in New Routes in March 2010.

*      An article analysing the language and behaviour of politicians in the ruling party post Terre’Blanche’s murder, and the pressing need for South Africans to confront and work on racial prejudice, was published in the Insight Section of the Cape Times of 12 April.

*      An article entitled “Impimpi tactics belong to the past: We can take on the bullies and win” was published in the Insight Section of the Cape Times on 14 June 2010.

Listen to Cracking the Hard Nut ...

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Listen to Carmen and Thando ...

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Listen to The Further Adventures of Carmen and Thando ...

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Listen to To Be A Man (Third episode in the Carmen and Thando series) ...

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Carmen and Thando
Carmen and Thando

More about the work of the Diversity Project (publications) ...

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The Manager at the details on the index page.