Young adult understanding of citizen rights and responsibilities in the Lesotho context: implications for civic education.
Thakaso, Mantsejoa Nthabiseng.
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In anticipation of proposed plans to revise the country’s twenty year old National Youth Policy, this study explored how young adults in Lesotho understand their citizenship rights and responsibilities and the implications of this for civic education of youth. In addition, how the youth manifest their citizenship identities in the various groups where they have membership was also investigated. The study adopted the interpretivist paradigm with a view to comprehending the young adults’ self-identified realities and their understanding of the concepts of citizenship and identity. To allow for a deeper investigation of the articulation of their rights and responsibilities as Basotho youth, the study followed a qualitative, case study approach. The cases studied were three youth groups in the Roma vicinity. These groups were LESCO – a political party youth group based on the NUL campus; the LCYM – a young people’s movement in the Roman Catholic Church; and the MSG – a mixed social group which was selected using the snowball sampling technique. Data were collected through focus group discussions, interviews and photo-voice. Citizenship and identity theories were used as a lens through which to understand how youth manifested their identities towards realising their roles in society. The youth manifested their identities in various ways under the different citizenship categories of communitarianism, civic republicanism and cosmopolitanism. Findings of the study revealed that youth in Lesotho generally have a positive self-image, although they resent the perception that South Africa views Lesotho as a ‘poor village’. The youth learn about communitarian values in their families, but learn about citizenship rights and responsibilities in their youth organisations and schools. They understand these rights and responsibilities to varying degrees, particularly in relation to rights which are not well understood in the Lesotho cultural context. In all groups they undertake a communitarian sense of responsibility and mainly follow a traditional ubuntu sense of collectiveness and commitment to their communities as a whole rather than adopting civic republican and cosmopolitan aspects of citizenship, although the politically oriented group LESCO indicated greater awareness and adoption of civic republican notions of citizenship. The study noted the absence of a formal or informal curriculum regarding citizen rights and responsibilities. It also acknowledged that the deficiency of adequate civic education programmes has implications for how young people position themselves in national development activities. The main recommendations were the need for a youth policy which advocates a non-formal civic education curriculum, pays greater attention to civic republican and cosmopolitan citizenship values, but includes the African notion of ubuntu and addresses the intergenerational tensions about the concept of rights and responsibilities.