Educational activities of the Johannesburg municipal social welfare department
Venter, Jacob Kruger
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(a) General: The legal responsibility for education in the Transvaal rests with the State. Primary and secondary education are the care of the Transvaal Provincial Administration through its Education Department , while technical , university and adult education are the care of the Central Government through its Union Department of Education. Although the educational facilities thus provided compare very favourably with those provided overseas, certain serious gaps are left , notably in the pre-school and in the post-school ages5 and also in certain aspects of the education of the school-going child, particularly in the case of the maladjusted child. Although the primary function of the Johannesburg Social welfare Department is social welfare, it fills some of these gaps , either wholly or in part , through some of its welfare provisions. It is seldom possible to separate social welfare services from educational services, as these two overlap to a large extent . The only difference is often only in point of view. Whereas Social Work wants to combat and remedy social evils, education wants to prevent them. There is thus much truth in the statement that what is social is also educational , and what is educational is also social. All welfare services, or for that matter any services, which tend to promote the bringing of the immature to a state of maturity, are also educational. (b) Educational Activities of the J.M.S.W.D.: The services provided by the J.M.S.W.D. which are of educational significance are Play Centres, Park Supervision, Youth Social Centres, Community Centres, Sheltered Employment and Occupational Therapy, Research, Statistics and Propaganda. (1) Play Centres: Play Centres were established in Johannesburg by the Social Welfare Department to provide for the urgently felt need for suitable and adequately organised recreational facilities in order to prevent juvenile delinquency and to keep the children away from the many dangers of the streets. The first Play Centre was opened in August, 1941, in Mayfair. Since then six more play Centres have been established in Johannesburg. The Play Centre movement started in England and America towards the end of the nineteenth century to compensate children for the loss of their play facilities as the result of the industrialisation of the cities with the consequent lack of wholesome ways of spending leisure time. Play is necessary for children as it not only fulfils a natural and fundamental urge, but it is also highly educative. The Play Centres, which were established to provide the necessary play and recreation facilities, aim at being remedial, rehabilitative, preventive, promotive and formative. They are remedial in so far as they aim at correcting existing mistakes, maladjustments and behaviour abnormalities. They are rehabilitative in so far as they aim at rehabilitating behaviour problem children. They are preventive in so far as they aim at preventing delinquency, sickness and disease, and undesirable friends and practices. They are promotive in so far as they aim at promoting better relationship between child, home and school, and the satisfaction of the basic needs of children. They are formative in so far as they aim at promoting the formation of character. The Play Centres hope to achieve the above aims through the provision of physical, intellectual, cultural and social activities. (2) Park Supervision Scheme: Like Play Centres, Park Supervision was established to provide organised play and recreational facilities for school-going children, especially in the more congested areas of the City, where playing room has almost disappeared as the result of industrialisation. America led the way in providing playgrounds for children. There the movement went through three stages, viz., the charity, the partially tax-supported, and the present stage, where it fights for tax-supported playgrounds for all children. Since the war schools are taking an increasing interest and an active share in providing for play and recreational facilities for children. In America Park Supervision is only one of the stages of a comprehensive recreation scheme. Park Supervision was begun in Johannesburg in the beginning of 1946. At present Joubert Park , End Street Park, Fairview Park and Rhodes Park are being supervised. The most important activities of the scheme are checking neglect and all treatment of children in the parks by nursemaids, dealing with cases of truancy, watching difficult children, dealing with suspicious looking characters, and, what is of particular importance from the educational point of view, doing constructive work with children, undertaking case studies and applying the necessary treatment in order to bring about better adjustment. (3) Youth Social Centres: Where the previous two services cater for school-going children, Youth Social Centres were established to provide constructive leisure-time activities for young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. There is much that is of educational importance in these activities, as true recreation is also an education, and through recreation the ends of education may be served. In fact, recreation is a most powerful instrument of education. Like the previous services, the movement also had its roots overseas, where they were established to provide for the adolescent needs of boys and girls. It was realised that unless these needs were adequately provided for there was an ever-present danger of some of them getting off the reservation. The need for this service was most evident during the war when fathers and mothers were on active service and the young people lacked the necessary parental direction and control. The Youth Social Centre in Johannesburg was opened in July, 1946, in the old German Club building. Although the primary objective of the Centre was, as already stated, the provision of constructive leisure-time activities, it is more and more taking on the new objective of education towards citizenship. The Youth Social Centre provides for a great variety of activities, including group activities, such a gymnastics, dancing, camping, needlework, dramatics and concerts, debating and discussion groups, bioscope shows and music groups. It also provides for a variety of games, such as billiards and snooker, table tennis, skittles, draughts, chess and cards. Important from the educational viewpoint are the case studies undertaken and the following treatment. (4) Community Centres: This service is concerned with the needs of young people over fifteen and of adults. They are to be established to provide constructive leisure-time activities, with the aim of promoting, a.o. adult education and education for citizenship. This movement also started overseas as a descendent of the Social Settlements, which developed out of a desire to alleviate the conditions of the poor, as the result of the Industrial Revolution, by providing them with educational, recreational, and social services. The Community Centre aims to bring about the above through the provision of the following activities: educational, health, social and recreational. Educational activities are to be provided by libraries, adult education classes, nursery schools, and study groups; health activities by clinics, medical services, etc.; social activities through dances, etc., and recreational activities through exercises, games, etc. (5) Sheltered Employment and Occupational Therapy: This service was established in Johannesburg towards the end of 1942 to employ and train physically and/or mentally handicapped persons under sheltered conditions with the object of rehabilitating them. Although the idea originated with the ancients, it was not until the World War that the movement gained ground. It played a considerable part in the treatment and rehabilitation of the war disabled. Sheltered Employment and Occupational Therapy aim at the adjustment of the individual through the provision of facilities for vocational training and sheltered employment. Thereby they aim at the restoration of confidence and self-reliance. This is to be brought about through the following activities: in the men's section, carpentry, tailoring, leather work, and sheet metal work , and in the woman's section, dressmaking, weaving, and toymaking. This is to be aided by lectures on educational subjects and excursions to places of interest, such as the Art Gallery. (6) Research, Statistics and Propaganda: This branch of the Social Welfare Department undertakes research into the best methods of conducting welfare work and makes the results thus obtained available to social workers and others interested. Through its propaganda activities the public is kept informed of recent developments in welfare work and the way is prepared for pending measures.
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