On 9th-13th March 2015 ACAOSA partnered with the Black Sash to convene the first annual Dullah Omar School for community based paralegals. This school was born out of a realisation that twenty years after the democratic breakthrough of 1994 the structural inequalities brought about by apartheid keep the majority of the population from accessing basic rights and enjoying social justice because the democratic order has not successfully engaged communities as active citizens hence the culture of human rights remains a dream despite South Africa having the most progressive constitution in the world.
All 100 spaces in the school were reserved for young paralegals who were targeted in order to draw young blood and professionalisation whilst retaining the important element of the passion and activism that characterised the sector during the struggle against apartheid. The school itself was conducted at the Stay City Hotel in Berea, Johannesburg. Funding for the school was generously provided by the CS Mott Foundation and D.G. Murray Trust. There was alongside the school a parallel process of developing the sector education and training strategy and it involved 20 experienced stalwarts from the sector. The process of bringing about the school involved the three elements of conceptualisation, coordination and actual classroom facilitation and all this necessitated the harvesting of partnerships amongst role-players in the community based paralegal and advice giving sector.
The school was named after a former human rights lawyer who later became a Minister of Justice under the Nelson Mandela Government and this was in honour of his recognition of this sector and his efforts in getting the sector included within the justice system.
Content and modules
The conceptualisation and delivery of modules in the school benefited largely through the selfless support of Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), Centre for Community Justice and Development (CCJD), Cape Town University of Technology (CPUT), Education and Training Unit (ETU), Local Government Alliance, LegalWise, Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Probono.Org, South African Law School, Socio Economic Research Institute of SA (SERI), Rhodes University Law Clinic, Tshwane University of Technology and many others.
There were also case conferencing sessions facilitated by LRC) and ProBono.Org. Mr. Anil Naidoo of Indiba Africa facilitated an education and training strategy session that is aimed at guiding future iterations of the school and other efforts at capacity building and training that will happen in the sector. A key recommendation expressed by the leaders in this session was that ACAOSA should take direct ownership of the school and that all efforts should be made to ensure that the school offered accredited training to practitioners and processes of recognition of prior learning (RPL) should be explored to cater for those with experience but without requisite entry requirements to enter accredited learning programmes such as diplomas and degrees.
Documentary Film Screenings
There were screening of documentaries in the evenings as follows:
Exhibition and Kiosks
There was one books and publications kiosk run by Khanya College, all other institutional participants were invited to bring publications and reports to be displayed in designated areas.
Documentation and Secretarial Services
The documentation of the school happened along three streams, namely, manual scribing of deliberations and proceedings, capturing of still photographs and videography.
Tour of Constitution Hill
The tour of Constitution Hill and the Constitutional Court proved to be a memorable experience for all the attendees at the Dullah Omar School. The participants were all encouraged by the wealth of information which show the great strides we have taken to reach this point in our democracy.
Media and publicity
A press statement was drafted between ACAOSA and Black Sash and it was published on the 9th March 2015. The services of a consultant were engaged by ACAOSA/Nadcao to secure slots in electronic media and there was a fairly good response from radio stations like PowerFM and SABC but this was not put to good use because slots the ACAOSA leadership could not immediately respond to opportunities as they arose because of the need for preparation.
Daily Evaluation and Feedback Sessions
Every day the organisers met and teased insights from each of the modules, sessions and other aspects involving logistics and coordination and made adjustments for the next day where necessary.
Accommodation and Hotel Facilities
The Stay City Hotel proved to be very useful as a central location and its position away from major shopping facilities helped to minimise disruptions but the fact that participants were forced to share bathroom and ablutions arrangements rendered it unsuitable for the leadership and this necessitated that a certain block of the participants be shuttled daily to an alternative facility. Whilst the staff and management of the hotel were very helpful and courteous, the hotel did not have adequate space for all the modules and break-aways hence some of the groups had to be relocated.
Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony
On Thursday 12 March the president of ACAOSA and leadership of Nadcao and Black Sash delivered a key note address, passed words of encouragement to the participants and presented the certificates of attendance to participants whilst an official from Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) officiated as master of ceremonies. This was planned to be followed by dinner and musical performance.
Closure and Evaluation
The Dullah Omar School was followed by a evaluation meeting which was held by the various organisers who were involved in the planning as well as those who were scribing the meetings. There was consensus regarding the success of the school as a first attempt. There were various concerns raised about the teaching pedagogue. The concerns were noted and it was proposed that we continue by trail and error until we can find the best methods for imparting knowledge.
The school was a great success and we envision that it will be a great success in the future.