Children face many issues and problems in their daily lives. Persona Dolls are used in ECD centres, schools, homes and communities by teachers, social workers, home visitors and other adults working with children and teenagers to discuss these issues, explore diversity and address bias. Each Doll has his/her own ‘Persona’ – name, gender, home and family background, culture, language, religion, social class, skin colour and physical features, special abilities and disabilities, likes and dislikes. Persona Dolls provide a useful tool to communicate with children and encourage them to communicate better through stories and dialogue, as illustrated in the sample stories below:
Malibongwe’s story – celebrating identity and diversity
Teachers in a small town, where all the children have a similar cultural background, decide to introduce a Doll from a different background. They make sure that there is plenty in the Doll’s life that the children can identify with.
Malibongwe is seven. He lives with his mother, father, grandmother and his baby sister, Nandi. Nandi sleeps in the room with Malibongwe and his granny. Where do you sleep? His little sister cries a lot – but he was very happy last night because his mother let him feed Nandi. She messed a lot but it was fun. Who has a baby sister or brother? How do you help look after the baby? Malibongwe is in Grade 1 and he loves his new school in Worcester. They do drawing and writing. He likes that, but he really likes the reading corner, and playing catch at break. What is your favourite story or game? Malibongwe likes fried chips – his granny took him to Steers last year for a treat. His favourite vegetable is pumpkin. What’s your favourite food? What vegetables do you like?
Malibongwe speaks isiXhosa at home but at his school they speak mostly Afrikaans and some English. Malibongwe is good in English and he is teaching his friend Tina some isiXhosa words. Who can say something in English? In Afrikaans? In isiXhosa? Malibongwe really likes school and his teacher Mr Wessels, who also coaches soccer. Who plays soccer? What team do you support?
Today Malibongwe wants to tell you about something that happened to him on the playground at school. A Grade 3 boy said to him: “So what’s your funny name?” Malibongwe said proudly: “My name is Malibongwe Joseph Jali.” The big boy laughed and said: “What a stupid long name – Mully-what? We’ll just call you Malletjie – jy’s van jou kop af.” Then the Grade 3 boy laughed in a nasty way and some other children shouted: “Malletjie”. Malibongwe asked his friend Tina what ‘Malletjie’ means. Do you know? How do you think he felt when he was called Malletjie and laughted at? How would you feel if people laughed at your name? What do you think he should do? What can he say to the big boy? Who can he ask for help at the school?
[The children might suggest: he can tell his teacher and he can talk to the children. He can pretend he doesn’t care. He can get more friends.]
Malibongwe says you’ve given him good ideas. He’s feeling better now and says thank you. Do you know what Malibongwe’s name means or shall we ask him before he goes? He says: “My isiXhosa name is Malibongwe – it’s like a prayer, ‘praise the Lord’, because my parents were so happy when I was born. That’s why I love my name. I’ll be happy if you know my real name and you can teach me how to say your English and Afrikaans names.” What do you think? It is fair to learn each other’s names? Can you learn Malibongwe’s name? Malibongwe says: “See you next time”.