During the years 2009 until December 2017 a cloud of negativity was hanging over South Africa. South Africa was being held back with protest actions, corruption, murder and violence. Our young children are not immune to these activities, as Bronfenbrenner proposed that children are influenced by their environments. Richter, Mathews, Kagura and Nonterah (2008) mention that children who are exposed to violence are at risk of becoming uncaring in the future. Against the backdrop of the current situation in South Africa, it became apparent that intervention is needed in order to inhibit children from becoming callous adults. Children are referred to as our future of tomorrow, however, little attention is paid toward how children view their future, amidst specific time frame of their lives.
This inquiry explored the hopes and fears that grade 3 children have towards their future in South Africa and how these perspectives can inform Futures in Education. The existing literature exposed that numerous studies both international and national had been done on adolescents’ future perspective. However, the future perspective of children in the foundation phase is under-researched. The expression that children should be seen and not heard seemed to relate towards children in the foundation phase. Children have the right to express themselves and to be listened to. The education system must be the modus operandi where children can express their views of the future. Children need to think more critically and creatively in terms of the future. It is within critical and creative thinking that Futures in Education lies. Within Futures in Education, children must learn about values. It can be argued, that if more attention is paid towards including values in our education system, would our children who are the future, not be more moral driven?
This research study was informed by the qualitative approach where a case study was used in order to provide an understanding of the hopes and fears children have, though adhering to their right to be heard. The research site was a school in Pretoria, Gauteng and a school in Britstown, Northern Cape. The data were collected through interviews, focus group interviews, writing a paragraph on future perspective and a letter to the president. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data with provision of data that “tells the story”. The research was conducted when the now former president, Mr Jacob Zuma was president of South Africa. A follow up study can be done with the same children, in order to compare their future perspective. As their voices made it clear that the political activities encompass their hopes and fears.
The grade 3 children expressed their future perspective in terms of their hopes and fears. The picture painted was that these children have a pessimistic feeling towards their future in South Africa. Fears mentioned by the children were murder, protest action, dangerous roads, and family violence. Children expressed their hope for better living conditions and this was said against the backdrop of the political factors in South Africa. Children mentioned that they wanted better housing, as they voted for the president and pleaded with him to make an end to the violence.
The fears children have towards their future, are rooted within the basic need of safety as to their hopes being imbedded into the more complex needs as set forth in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If we do not meet the basic needs of our children, how will they commence to more complex needs such as self-esteem and self-actualization?
The key findings confirmed that the future perspective of children can be utilised within Futures in Education. The fears that children have are predominantly formed against a decline in moral values in the society. Teaching of values must thus be given more attention within the subject of Life Skills within the South African National Curriculum (DBE, 2011). New knowledge was obtained as it became apparent that a child in South Africa fear matters that is currently in the news or happening in their lived world.
Education, with reference to Futures in Education, must support children to have a mind shift from their pessimistic future perspective towards a more optimistic future perspective.