'Let the little children come to archives': schools as a conduit for taking archives to children
Public programming initiatives are considered an integral part of archival operations across the world because they support a greater use of archival records. In South Africa, public archival institutions are mandated in terms of section 5(1)(c) of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996) (NARSSA Act) to reach out to the less privileged sectors of society, including children, by making known information concerning records by means such as publications, exhibitions and lending of records. As a result, public archives repositories in South Africa have designed programmes to take archives to school learners for the purpose of creating future users and expanding the use of archival sources. Despite efforts to take archives to the people in South Africa, it would seem that public programming methods that repositories use at schools are not effective in creating awareness and promoting public archives to attract school learners. This qualitative study utilised semi-structured interviews and observation as data collection tools to investigate schools as conduits for taking public archives to learners in the Gauteng province of South Africa. The key findings suggest that the public archives repositories in Gauteng do not use technology, particularly social media, to market their services to school learners. The main method of taking archives to learners is through invitations and participation in the annual archives week, which do not yield any positive results, as learners do not visit the archives afterwards. It is recommended that public archives repositories in Gauteng should consider using school learners who participated in the previous archives week as ambassadors to further recommend the use of archives to potential users and their peers. Furthermore, collaboration between archivists and teachers from neighbouring schools should be considered by including school projects that involve the use of “archives’’. In this regard, the repositories should be able to provide access to such learners. The study concludes that failure to adopt social media platforms to market archives would result in school learners not using archives.