Independent Projects Trust

      Character Building in Schools Project

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One of the most important institutions for youth development is the schools. After the family, it is arguably the most important space for young people to establish relationships, values, and the basis for future life choices. It is also often the site at which problems are first displayed, as demonstrated by a survey in one Durban school. The school becomes an even more important site as a child enters early adolescence, and family influence becomes challenged by peers and other external influences. School competency is one of the most important 'resilience' factors characterising non-violent children. Since school attendance for all children is compulsory in South Africa between the ages of 7 and 15, schools are vehicles to reach the majority of young people at some stage in their lives.

The direction of a child's life-path relies on a balance between a child's 'character' and 'tools' and what the world has to offer that child. Schools can help to provide children with the 'tools' required to navigate towards a non-violent pathway. For example: schools can facilitate a positive sense of school competence, can provide a sense of support and care for learners, can facilitate the discovery of the child's philosophical understanding of the world, can provide children with conceptual problem solving and communication skills, and can provide opportunities for active involvement in self-defining activities.


The aim of the "Character Building in the Classroom" Programme is therefore to assist schools to begin to provide young people with the effective tools to help them navigate their own path in life, hopefully a path that resists violence. The programme does this by exploring universally accepted core values.

One of the most important aspects of educating young people, is the learning of virtues or character traits. In building a learner's character, traits such as the following are important: truthfulness, patience, perseverance, respect, courage, co-operation, compassion, impartiality, justice, honesty, helpfulness, respecting yourself and others and trustworthiness. These traits stem from the above-mentioned basic core values. The Character Building in the Classroom Programme does not claim to be the answer to society's moral problems, but it begins to challenge learners to think about the character traits that reveal a morally mature person.

Moral education is best accomplished indirectly through example and practice.