On 18 July Madiba turns 92. This annual birthday is becoming an event in South Africa, dedicated to community service. This year the theme chosen for Mandela Day is School Libraries. This is a great recognition of our work and campaigning over the past year.
This morning EE members Nthuthuzo Ndzomo, Olwethu "Shakes" Matyesini, Portio Nyokane, Ilan Strauss and Phathiswa Shushwana represented EE at the press conference launch at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. EE Board member Graeme Bloch was also present. Phathiswa spoke on behalf of EE and her speech is below. Read it, post it on facebook as a note, e-mail it.
On 18 July find something to do which relates to reading, books and school libraries particularly in poor and working-class neighbourhoods. Donate books to the EE Bookery at 20 Roeland Street, and volunteer your time. Write to your local newspaper in support of our campaign for school libraries.
Phathiswa Shushwana Speech for Nelson Mandela Foundation – 8 July 2010
My name is Phathiswa Shushwana. I am 16 years of age, and I am in Grade 10 at Luhlaza High School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. As an Equal Education activist, known as an Equaliser, I’ve been campaigning for a National Policy on School Libraries for 12 months. We are slowly getting there.
Being at the Nelson Mandela Foundation today makes me feel proud to be a representative of young people in South Africa, and makes me feel inspired to be a real future leader. Our struggle has brought us here. Being here today gives me hope that the education crisis will come to an end. I believe our generation can realize that we deserve a better education and also give learners the right attitude towards their education.
Equal Education calls on young South African’s to form reading groups, to form study groups, to form library clubs and to read newspapers, pamphlets, magazines and most importantly books from cover to cover.My school is one of the three schools in Khayelitsha that has a library. I wish my comrades could say the same. I am one of the lucky few.
Many grade 1 learners in South Africa do not have reading books. They read the same book the whole year. Twelve years later they fail matric, or they fight and pass but not well enough to go to university. It starts with story books. That is why today we are saying: South Africa, please, we want your favourite children’s story books for the youth of this country!
I remember being in grade 7, at a school without a library. I couldn’t get help at the public library for my assignment. So I went back home without the information I needed. My parents were not able to help me. There were no books in my home and I did not have a computer or internet access in my home. I was forced to copy someone else’s assignment, because that’s how desperate I was. If such an experience happened to me, imagine how many learners experience such problems.
South Africa, this wonderful Mandela Day is about books, and reading, and school libraries. But it is also about equality, which is what Madiba has lived for. Where is equality when there are those who attend schools with libraries, and there are those attend schools without? 60% of schools in SA are “no fee” schools. These are the schools that most desperately need libraries because they are the ones that cannot afford to put libraries in themselves, and these are the homes that cannot afford to buy books, and cannot afford transport to public libraries.
The reason why we need these libraries is to improve literacy. How can we be motivated to go to school when we are not able to read or to love what we read?
On the 17th of May 2009, in an interview in the Sunday Times, Minister Motshekga said:
“The best allies in education are the parents and learners… [They must] take a stand when their rights are being violated.”
South Africa, on Mandela Day we are asking you to be the Minister’s allies. We are asking you to be our allies. We will be the Minister’s allies.
Our campaign for a real policy and implementation plan for school libraries will continue, but on 18 July let us all unite and mobilise by spreading the word to call on all South African’s to donate books for school libraries. The Equal Education Bookery in Roeland Street, Cape Town, will be a key collection point for the Western Cape. Come donate, cover, sort and distribute books with us.
With solidarity we must strive for equality.
Viva Nelson Mandela Viva!
Viva Equal Education Viva!
Thank you very much.