Learning through doing: suggesting a deliberative approach to children’s political participation and citizenship
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The paper focuses on the issue of children’s political participation and considers the idea of political participation understood as a human right. Contingently it considers the question of children as agents or potential political actors, as well as the assumed limitations of their role. The paper begins by offering an outline of how children’s rights have come to be considered in the international context as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the idealized concept of childhood that is implicit in this convention. The paper then proposes some alternative approaches to understanding childhood and children’s status, with a view to proposing a more nuanced approach to their political participation that neither treats them as passive recipients of duties towards them, nor as the voiceless possessions of groups or families. This is followed by an account of the emerging debate about deliberative democracy as a more substantive approach to political participation, and by some consideration of how this relates to the rights and capabilities of children as political actors. The paper concludes with some tentative suggestions about how institutions in South Africa could be utilized to realize a more flexible and nuanced approach to children’s participation in this key area.