This article appeared here on the News24 site on 2009-12-17 18:58.
Johannesburg – A claim by the Department of Education that providing decent school libraries is "unattainable" is a denial of the right to basic education, the Equal Education research organisation said on Thursday.
"This is a denial of the right to basic education to which every person is entitled [to] and a violation of the rights to equality and human dignity, organisation spokesperson Lukhanyo Mangona said in a statement.
The remark was reported to have been by the Hope Mokgatlhe, the spokesperson for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, in a newspaper supplement in November.
Mokgatlhe was reported to have said that a stand-alone library for every school "would be unattainable, given the historical neglect of this".
She said the department had focused on trying to ensure access to resources in a practical and implementable way.
This involved creating and improving classroom library collections, mobile libraries, resources for schools in community libraries and stand-alone libraries that served a cluster of schools.
Mangona called on Motshekga to distance herself from the comments.
He said according to the 2007 National Education Infrastructure Management System report only 7% of public schools in SA had functional libraries of any kind.
"These 7% of public schools that have libraries are the former model-C schools who are able to establish libraries and employ librarians through their own funds, collected through fees," he said.
"Since 1997 the DoE has produced six drafts of a national school libraries policy [and] none have been adopted as official policy.
"The DoE offers no specialists school librarian posts. All posts are for teachers and most schools cannot spare a teacher to run a library because of high learner, teacher ratios."
Mangona said the department closed its School Libraries Unit in 2002.
In November 2008 the department published for comment the National Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.
This published item stated that every large primary school and every large secondary school should have a library of 80m².
"The regulations still remain unconfirmed by the minister and therefore are of no assistance to teachers, learners or education planners," he said.
According to Equal Education, to build 80m² libraries in the approximately 20 000 schools in need, would cost significantly less than the 10 World Cup stadiums.
"If a national roll-out of school libraries was undertaken over a 10 year period, including infrastructure, materials, training of libraries, and salaries for full-time library administrators, the annual cost would be 1.5% of the department's R139bn annual budget," Mangona said.
"After the first 10 years, once infrastructure, materials and training have been provided, the cost would reduce to 0.9% of the DoE's annual budget [and] this is very affordable and not 'unattainable'."