Recently our senior scouts hiked the Outeniqua and Harkerville Trails near Knysna. This was done as a substitute for the cancelled 2018 Senior Scout Adventure. The scouts did this hike on their own without any adult accompanying them or even being within 500 kms of them. I expected concerns to be raised by parents over issues such as safety, transport and the recent fires in the area. But interestingly, no such concerns were raised. Further, while I harboured unease over taking this step of letting the scouts go on their own, I never seriously considered having an adult accompany them once I had taken the initial decision that they should be on their own as part of the experience.

It came down to trust between the various parties involved. Perhaps most significant was the trust both the parents and the scouters placed in the scouts themselves. We trusted them to pack their equipment and food appropriately and to hike for 6 days, unaccompanied, in unfamiliar terrain, far from assistance. We did this because we trust them to be responsible people who have sufficient hiking experience and skills to deal with issues that may arise without reference to an adult. And while they had daily contact with the outside world, this is exactly what they did. At no point did they ask for help or advice.

This is one of those skills that scouts teaches by being a youth led organisation. We trust our scouts to be responsible when they should be and to learn the skills and earn the trust to undertake adventures such as this. This trust takes different forms over the different age groups. Initially we might trust a scout to handle an axe after appropriate training. Later we trust them to run a camp without adult supervision and later still to lead hikes without adult supervision. The scout learns responsibility and they learn what it is like to be responsible. Baden_Powell said “The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”.  I can honestly say that in my years as a adult scouter, my trust has never been misplaced by one of my scouts.

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