A three-day Street Law Democracy for All Workshop was presented by Professor David McQuoid-Mason of UKZN’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and Advocates Ms Devina Perumal and Mr Lesala Mofokeng of the School of Law on the Howard College campus.
The workshop was held for community members of the Impumelelo Centre for People with Disabilities in Ohlange, Inanda.
Draft materials from the new edition of the original Street Law Democracy for All manual were used at the workshop which attracted more than 60 participants of all ages on one of the days.
The original version of Democracy for All (1993) has been adapted and used in numerous countries undergoing transition to democracy and has been translated into several different languages.
Interactive teaching methods were used because educational psychologists have found they are far more effective than lectures in transferring knowledge.
McQuoid-Mason said responses from the participants were enthusiastic and inspirational and - particularly for Perumal and Mofokeng - in sharp contrast to the reaction of Law students who often demanded to be ‘spoon-fed’ and were sometimes reluctant to become engaged during classes or to think for themselves.
‘Even though the workshops ran for six hours a day the enthusiastic commitment of the participants and their willingness to debate controversial issues was a refreshing and energising experience for all three instructors,’ he said.
Perumal said it had been a ‘light bulb’ experience for her and she was amazed at the depth of understanding of the societal issues raised by the participants. She thought the community’s insights into violations of people’s democratic and constitutional rights in the real world were far superior to that of the majority of students at the Law School.
McQuoid-Mason said Mofokeng visited the townships frequently and was aware of many of the issues raised by the participants. However, Mofokeng’s role usually involved providing legal advice or representation and he had not previously spent much time conducting legal education workshops there. He too found the experience a refreshing change from what he often encountered with students in the Law School.
McQuoid-Mason said the experience took him back to the Law clinic work he used to do in the 1970s and 1980s, and his Street Law work when he was actively involved with committed law students. At the then University of Natal in the 1970s, McQuoid-Mason ran the Law Clinic single-handedly - with some part-time assistance from sympathetic lawyers - while carrying a full teaching load of four academic courses.
After he established the Street Law progamme, McQuoid-Mason conducted Street Law workshops in townships all over the country – sometimes in difficult circumstances during States of Emergency.