Thanks to Valued Citizens Initiative and Renault SA, seven pupils from Vulindlela Primary School in Harrismith, Free State, have made a triumphant return home from Paris after participating in the 2011 Fraternity Cup organised by La Voix de l’Enfant an organization focused on children’s rights.

Renault 2011

Seven Harrismith pupils were among 98 children from 12 countries who met in Paris, France recently to participate in the Fraternity Cup 2011.

The second international gathering of its kind, the Fraternity Cup was convened by La Voix de l’Enfant and its affiliated members including South Africa’s Valued Citizens Initiative (VCI), a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to expand the minds and souls of children and enable them to share their thoughts on constitutional values, children’s rights and responsibilities.

Through its international network, the Renault Group has long been committed to driving educational projects wherever the Group has a presence and Renault is the founding partner of VCI and its’ Values in Schools programme over a decade ago. This progamme focuses on ethics and constitutional values through citizenship education and has been delivered to more than 468 000 learners at 1 605 public schools across four provinces via 4 413 VCI-trained educators to date.

On their arrival back at OR Tambo International Airport, the Vulindlela seven had much to say about the 10 days spent in Paris sharing Fraternity Cup activities which included sport, art, music, culture “and lots of fun”.

Renault 2011

All agreed they felt blessed to have been chosen to represent South Africa’s youth and that for each of them, “respect for our environment and the diversity of the people we met, was our priority.

“The Fraternity Cup is about encouraging young people like us to understand the importance of children’s rights, to respect each other despite our differences and giving us the chance to express ourselves through shared art, music, dancing and sporting activities.”

The Vulindlela learners forged a particularly strong bond with their Japanese peers and made firm friends with the Indian and Brazilian delegations. Veronica Msimanga, 12 years old and a Grade 6 learner says she found the flight to Paris “very exciting, not scary at all. It was a lifetime opportunity, none of us had ever flown before!”

The best soccer player amongst the seven, 13-year old Solomzi Mazibuka was chosen to be captain of the soccer team and was justifiably proud of the seven goals he managed to notch up. “I have kept a journal of everything that we did at the Fraternity Cup and hope to stay in touch with all the new friends that I made.”

Twelve year old Mnikelo Mduduzi, a Grade 6 learner at Vulindlela Primary took up the challenge of being the team’s goal keeper and was thrilled to be able to kick the ball around at the famous Stade de France.

VCI training officer and Deputy Principal of Bryandale Primary School Silas Pillay, together with Francina Khalipi, an educator from Vulindlela Primary School, accompanied the pupils. Pillay said that he reveled in meeting fellow educators “who despite our striking differences in terms of colour, language and cultural practices, were drawn together by the brotherhood of mankind. Once the culture shock was over, our commonality took over and rose to the fore.

“La Voix De L’Enfant must be praised for facilitating an event of this magnitude and their use of sport, music and art as catalysts to promote interaction amongst the children was most effective,” he added. “Their idea of creating a huge Fresco painting canvas was brilliant and I really enjoyed working alongside our learners depicting South Africa through our combined artistic efforts.”

The culmination of Fraternity Cup 2011 was a celebration dinner and each delegation was tasked to use song and dance to showcase their countries. “The SA team opted to perform a traditional Zulu dance with all its vernacular beats and rhythms which earned them joyful applause.”

Pillay said that the seven students had done VCI and South Africa proud, that their display of values and their spirit of sportsmanship were constantly remarked upon and resulted in the Vulindlela learners being awarded the Fraternity Cup 2011 trophy for Sportsmanship.

“This trip to the Fraternity Cup in Paris was the most wonderful opportunity for us all and I would like to thank La Voix de L’Enfant, VCI and Renault for affording these youngsters the experience of a lifetime,” concluded Vulindlela Primary’s Francina Khalipi.