The driving force for this study was firstly to gain insight into young children's understanding of their rights and responsibilities in democratic South Africa. Secondly, to identify whether the participating learners were educated about and had insight into their rights and responsibilities. Thirdly, I explored gaps in participating learners' knowledge of their rights and responsibilities and determined areas that can be improved by the education policy and practice related to children's rights. The main purpose of this research was to contribute to the growing body of knowledge and in so doing, improve the education of the young child in general. The aim of this research was to assist and guide educators and all adults working with children on all levels to transform education related to the rights and responsibility of the young child. Fourthly, I to give children a voice in society.
Empowering them with knowledge could ultimately assist adults working with children to raise strong, well-adjusted learners through knowing and understanding their rights. It was imperative for this study that I closely listen to and heard the participant children's voices. Giving children the opportunity to be heard empowers them to be participating citizens rather than being passive and reliant on others. The right to be heard can be referred to as a self-improving or self-regulating right. Children are knowledgeable regarding their own lives and their rights to self-expression, citizenship and their sense to fit in. Being knowledgeable makes children experts in their life-world. This is why it is very important to know how the South African child understands his or her rights and responsibilities.
South Africa became a democracy in 1994. The children in this study live in South Africa and were born into the democracy of South Africa. The participant children were accustomed to living in democratic South Africa and voiced their opinions contextually and accordingly.
This research design is of a qualitative nature, utilising case study as a method and took place in the natural environment of the participants where data was collected. Multiple case studies were utilised and viewed from an interpretivist perspective. This enabled the researcher to provide a construct of young children's understanding of their rights and responsibilities in democratic South Africa.
The research context was the school grounds as well as the classroom of the participants. Data concerning the understanding that young children have of their rights and responsibilities was gathered through observations, interviews, discussions, artefacts made by the participants, photographs taken by the participants, stories and narratives in the form of text written by the participants and analysed by the researcher. The analysis of visual artefacts was instrumental in gathering data for this study.
Data gathering took place in a Grade 3 classroom. The 17 research participants for this study were selected via convenience sampling. I examined the data collected to find and discover young learners' perceptions of their rights and responsibilities. I chose an independent school where the participants had diverse backgrounds regarding language, ability, socio-economic background, race and religion. This independent school had a high standard of education. According to the UNCRC children's ages ranges from birth to 18 years of age. The general age of Grade 3 children is nine years. This is right in the centre of childhood and therefore considered it an appropriate age to obtain an understanding of what the child has come to know and understand as his or her rights and responsibilities.
A conceptual framework was developed during this study for children's rights and responsibility. By combining the social constructivist theory, the three p's and the ladder of participation, it assisted me in understanding the phenomenon under study. My findings are that the participant children had a certain amount of insight and possessed promising potential in participating. However, misperceptions occur and inadequate knowledge disappoints children to participate at their full potential. Rights education is crucial, as it will assist our children to understand their rights more clearly in order to become future citizens that will have the ability to participate in democratic processes.