In April, a group of mothers from Khayelitsha came together and penned an open letter to Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in her capacity as President of the ANC Women’s League. In the letter, the mothers express their concern about the quality of education their children are receiving. They also ask the Minister, as a woman and mother herself, to adopt the policy of Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, which will benefit the lives of poor and working-class children across the country.
In the two weeks after the letter was written, the mothers went around their communities, garnering support for the letter from other parents and collecting more than 1300 signatures. On 29 April, the letter, along with the supporting signatures, was sent to the Minister and the senior leadership of the ANC Women’s League. Yesterday, the letter was published as an op-ed piece in the Sowetan’s education supplement and today it appears in two national newspapers, The Times and Daily Sun.
Read the letter here.
‘A better education for our children means a better future for our families’: An Open Letter to mama Angie Motshekga, President of the ANC Women’s League.
We are a group of mothers from Khayelitsha. Our children go to school in the township and in the Eastern Cape. Like all mothers, we only want the best for our children.
We write to you mama because we are concerned about our children’s education. We write to you as a woman, a mother and the President of the ANC Women’s League, an organisation which has always fought for the rights of women and children. We believe that it is very fortunate that you are also the Minister of Basic Education and are able to make a real difference in the lives of our children and families.
On Human Rights Day, 20 000 of our children marched to Parliament to demand better education. Our children were very disappointed that you were not there, and so were we.
Our children marched with Equal Education for a policy called Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. This policy will say what facilities all schools must have. With this policy, Government and communities will make sure that these facilities are provided in our schools.
In June 2010, you said in another policy that you will adopt Minimum Norms and Standards by the 1st of April 2011. This date has now passed and there is still no policy. Why is this?
Our children need classrooms, toilets that work, water and electricity, fencing, libraries, laboratories and computer centres. These things should not only be for learners at schools in the suburbs. Every child deserves a quality education.
Our lives are difficult. We live in shacks, in areas where there is no clean water, electricity and toilets. Most of us are unemployed. Others work for little pay in Town and on farms, or selling food in the township. Many of us depend on social grants to buy food, clothes, paraffin and to pay for transport.
We know that the reason we cannot get proper jobs is because we are not educated. Like you mam’uAngie, we went to school during Apartheid and suffered under Bantu Education. With no shoes or uniform, we went to school under trees, in churches, rondavels and ishedi. We did not even have books, desks or chairs. We used to have to write on isileyiti with chalk, rubbing out our work as we went along.
At that time, children did not have rights. Many of us, like you, supported the Struggle and hoped for an end to Apartheid. Because of the sacrifices made in the Struggle, today our children can join Equal Education and fight for better schools.
When we send our children to school, we hope that one day they will pass matric, go to university and get a good job, so that they can look after us. But we are not seeing this happen. Instead, our children are dropping out of school or failing matric.
Our children’s teachers received the same education we did. Many of them were not properly trained and cannot explain the work to our children. These teachers need to be trained and supported. Quality education starts in the classroom.
Our children’s schools should also be provided with fencing, so that they can be safe. They need libraries, laboratories and computer rooms to help them learn and prepare them for university. We need Minimum Norms and Standards to ensure this. Where schools have facilities, they should be open and available for children to use. They should not be locked all day, as many of them are.
Many of our young children live with our families in the Eastern Cape. There they go to mud schools, with no proper classrooms, desks, chairs or textbooks. These are the same things we experienced during Apartheid. How can this be?
A better education for our children means a better future for our families. It also means a better future for South Africa.
This is why we are asking you mam’uAngie, to adopt Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure immediately. You have the power to do this. We are depending on you.