Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the founding of Equal Education (EE). In three short years we have grown from a small organisation of a handful of committed members to a full-time dedicated staff, several thousand Equalisers (youth members) and countless other South Africans who support and associate with Equal Education.
There have been many highlights over the past three years. We have campaigned successfully to have the broken windows of Luhlaza High School fixed; to have the broken roof at Harry Gwala High School fixed; to deliver textbooks to matric students; to reduce late-coming in high schools; to provide career opportunities to township youth; to have a library in every school; and to eradicate mud-schools.
Our Parliamentary submissions are having a major impact – seven of the eight recommendations EE made to the Education Laws Amendment Bill were adopted. Because of our campaigning an important policy was adopted: the National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment. Our research is at community level and directly relevant to challenges faced by millions of people.
In 2010 over 12,000 participated in Human Rights Day marches around the country, over 5,000 fasted during our Fast for School Libraries, over 7,000 sent EE post-cards to political leaders calling for libraries and resources in schools, and over 60,000 signed our petition for 1 School 1 Library 1 Librarian. At the same time work at local level brought role-players together to solve problems, create libraries and improve accountability and quality.
However, possibly our proudest achievement is the development of empowered and educated young leaders committed to demanding equality in education for their fellow learners in places around South Africa including Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Bonteheuwel, Mitchells Plain, Makhado, Nquthu, and Alexandra township. These young people serve as an example in their schools, showing dedication to their studies and respect for their schools and communities. Our youth groups provide the knowledge and tools for young South Africans to better their own education system and acquire the leadership skills to take the campaign for decent education forward at a grassroots level. It is these individuals who will drive Equal Education forward in the years to come.
Whilst we take a moment to acknowledge some of our triumphs we must also note the great challenges that lie ahead. We are dealing with an educational system that is failing our young people. Critical emphasis must be placed on the teaching profession, and the need to give it the esteem, support, training and resources necessary for a transformation in quality. Vastly unequal physical, human and educational resources continue to regenerate inequality in our classrooms.
This year Equal Education will be marching again on 21 March to demand basic infrastructure in all South African Schools. Specifically, we are asking our Minister, Angie Motshekga, to keep her promise to finalise Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, by the end of March 2011.
Our campaigns relating to late-coming, textbooks and mud-schools continue. We are excited to have begun working with and training parents to work alongside their children and their teachers in combating educational problems. In June, EE will be hosting the People’s Summit for Quality Education, a landmark event that will bring together learners, parents, teachers, community members, activists, school principals, academics, SGB members, and ordinary people from around the country to create a united vision for the improvement of education in South Africa. Later in the year EE will hold its first National Congress.
We look forward to a challenging but successful year in the struggle for equal education. Happy Birthday Equal Education!
Doron Isaacs, Equal Education Coordinator