As learners, teachers, principals and parents we believe that a quality education is a right for all learners in South Africa. We believe that all South Africans, without exception, share the same inalienable rights: that we are equal citizens who share a common national destiny. We know that all forms of inequality and bias are dehumanizing. We know that our constitution promises us that everyone has the right to a basic education and that it commits our nation to providing development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of race or class or gender. We also know that education is an instrument for social transformation, an instrument of liberation. It is essential to sustaining and deepening our democracy, and for achieving a socially aware and compassionate society.
We also know that the quality of education received by learners repeats the patterns of our apartheid past. Our education continues to divide the rich and the poor, the articulate and the voiceless, the housed and the homeless, and the well-fed and the malnourished. Millions of poor and black South Africans continue to learn in educationally impoverished conditions. Gross inequalities in educational provision are the source of inequalities in access to skills, employment and opportunities to further education. Social justice cannot be achieved with the sustained, adequate provision of basic education for all.
Backlogs and inequalities in education are widespread and cripple poor communities by denying the same quality of learning opportunities for all learners, and in particular the vulnerable. We know that commitments exist to "open the doors of learning and culture to all" and to build a just and equitable education system which provides good quality education and training to learners across the country. We believe that some promises have been made to us that must be fulfilled immediately. We know that some commitments might take several years to deliver.
A quality education for all is urgent. Every lesson that is lost is a wasted opportunity. Every lesson taught where children are exposed to wind and rain and sun without the protection of a classroom is a national shame. Every day where any one of our children and teachers does not have access to water or a toilet at school is a disgrace. Every day that passes without learners being able to use a textbook in every lesson that requires it is a denial of the right to learn.
Every year that we fail to provide a quality education, millions of children fall further and further behind with little hope of catching up. Every year that hundreds of thousands leave school before reaching Grade 12, more young people fall into long-term unemployment. Every year that thousands fail matric, the hope of families and communities are shattered. New generations continue to be denied access to the quality education fundamental to the development of their capacities and potential on which the possibility of their making a full contribution to the society depends.
We want an education benefits all learners in the country, and we want the best education that is possible in South Africa. Urgent action can no longer be delayed.
These concerns unite us in action, as learners, teacher, parents and communities, across the country. In our unity we know that the achievement of our educational rights is the joint responsibility of all who have a stake in our common national destiny. We therefore commit ourselves to working actively to build a just, equitable, and high quality system for all the citizens. We call for a national conversation which aims to reach agreement on not only the essential goals and principles of an equal education for all, but the urgent actions that will be taken to achieve this.