In this article, originally published in The Grocott's Mail, 16 February 2010, Cathy Gush reports on a visit by the EE Roadshow to Nyaluza school in the Eastern Cape. In fact EE has visited schools all across the Eastern Cape. This is just one example.
On Friday, Equal Education came to town. And backing them in their 1 School – 1 Library – 1 Librarian campaign were the Eastern Cape’s Save our Schools and Communities (SOSAC) group and Grahamstown’s own Fingo Revolutionary Movement (FRM). These groups are starting to succeed in building support and involvement at grassroots level amongst young people and communities for the issues affecting education in our country and our province. Not least of which is the lack of access to books and a culture of reading.
Arriving in the Nathaniel Nyaluza quad at noon on a hot summer’s day, I could hear laughter rippling around the ranks of pupils and teachers assembled there and I soon discovered why. There were two talented local actors from FRM engaging in a skit about the importance of reading and learning, but they were putting the message across with such humour and a home grown approach that it obviously resonated with the audience. A tap on the shoulder and I was politely asked if I would sign the petition. “What’s it for?” I asked. “Our library campaign” said the young volunteer from the Equal Education team. It turns out mine was one of nearly 1000 signatures garnered on the day. This petition is now going to join others collected around the Eastern and Western Cape, and will be presented to Parliament on Human Rights Day, 21 March after a march through the streets of Cape Town. Believing that school libraries are vital to quality teaching and learning, and counting amongst its patrons such luminaries as Dr Mamphele Ramphele and Nadine Gordimer, the campaign’s first and foremost demand is that all schools must be provided with fully functional libraries where learners and teachers can source information and find books to read for pleasure.
I chat to another member of the Equal Education team, Zuko Xhalisa and he tells me about their work with youth groups in the townships of Cape Town. He himself is a Gap Year intern who came through the ranks of the pupil membership and says he joined EE because he felt it was important for him not to forsake his roots, but to do something about improving education in his community. “I realised that I am also the government”, says Xhalisa in a laudable move towards taking co-responsibility for issues affecting their future.
Lwandiso Stofile, leader of the EE team, steps forward to thank the local groups and the school management for making the rally possible. He ends off with a slogan that he got from a school principal in Malmesbury, reminding the crowd that “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers”.
The music is turned up and the atmosphere turns festive amongst the crowd of pupils, some of whom are dressed in civvies as part of Valentine’s Day celebrations. These guys certainly know how to get a serious message across in a way that draws in the young people and gets their support.
I drove away thinking, “This is exciting stuff, man!"