The 22nd Khanya Winter School kicks off on 29 August – 3 September 2021 at the House of Movements (HoM) in Johannesburg. The theme of the school is ‘Organising under COVID-19 – From Protest to Organising for Power’. This year’s School is important for activists at the time where there is a big need for more systematic and sustainable organising, and also for spaces for activists to come together to discuss strategies for organising and how to move from protests to organising for power.
This year the School had 52 participants. To give women a space, 60% of the participants are women. Participants are from different organisations including Gauteng Community Health Care Forum, Community HealthcareWorkers (CHWs) from Mpumalanga and North West, Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) and coordinators from Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) centres such as Rena Le Lona, PUSH, Ikageng, Dirang Ka Kagiso, Thlokomelo. This year the school was also attended by Tsohang Batjha, youth who are both in and out of school.
This is the first Winter School that is being organised under COVID-19, therefore it had to adopt different methodologies to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are observed. This will include having parallel sessions in different venues within HoM and connecting through Zoom (an online meeting platform).
In preparation for the Winter School, Khanya managed to organise participants to come together and form study groups that met every Wednesday evening on Whatsapp and every Sunday afternoon on Zoom. These study groups were very important in preparing participants for the School and in assisting them to understand some of the key concepts of the School. Participants were divided in small groups and assigned facilitators to coordinate the study groups. For four weeks comrades met twice a week to read together and discuss what they read. That allowed participants to gain confidence and to understand issues that the School would be focusing on. Guide questions were set to help discuss the readings and on Sundays, comrades came together in a plenary session. The Sunday sessions also included mini-workshops on reading and writing skills.
These study groups helped comrades to start grappling with the readings and issues as a collective. While reading is not easy, the study groups began to give participants a perspective and space to battle together with the reading. Even with the challenges of network and load-shedding, comrades made an effort to attend the sessions, even using the Whatsapp chats as a space to continue discussions. This methodology was very engaging and broke the ice for the Winter School, ensuring everyone was clear about what to expect in the School and prepare for it.
Study groups are a very good methodology for engagement. They are not formal and give comrades a space to unpack readings in more relaxed pace. To make sure that everyone got an opportunity to participate, Khanya gave everyone data both for Wednesday and Sunday sessions. Participants got their readings and guide questions in the beginning of the week, so they had enough time to read and prepare for the study group sessions.
After each session, facilitators had debriefing meetings where they evaluated the effectiveness of the study groups, discussed challenges that participants were struggling with and how to better assist them to overcome those challenges. As a result, readings that were difficult were done over two weeks to make sure that participants catch up and are on the same page, sometimes the guide questions were revisited to be more effectiveness.
This had a positive impact on the School and allowed comrades to engage more regularly. The high level of understanding is also a result of the work that participants put in on a weekly basis towards reading.
This article was submitted on 30 August 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article (https://karibu.org.za/study-groups-used-to-prepare-participants-for-22nd-khanya-winter-school/).