15 March 2019
Media statement: Equal Education members today join #GlobalStrikeForClimate
Today at 1pm, Equal Education members will be among the young climate justice activists gathered outside Parliament, in solidarity with thousands of other learners and students in over 100 countries, who are holding a #ClimateStrike in the streets of their cities, as part of the #GlobalStrikeForClimate.
Poor communities, and women in particular, bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. In South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape, climate change has worsened droughts and floods. These changes have had devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, who feel it first and feel it the most. In 2018, when the water crisis was at its peak, many South African resorted to collecting water from public taps in far-off and dangerous locations, and to sometimes using contaminated water. Food security emerged as a serious issue.
As #DayZero approached in the Western Cape, Equal Education undertook a snap audit at 52 schools that we organised in, and found that the majority of these school had no boreholes, no working JoJo tanks, and no concrete plan to ensure water security. On many days, learners were sent home from these schools, in the event of there being no water – a learning disadvantage for EE members and other learners.
Our demands today are for:
- In the implementation of the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, the national and provincial education departments must be mindful of the need for energy efficient buildings;
- The National School Nutrition Programme must be protected. Food security for food sovereignty!
- The national and provincial governments must work to ensure that all schools and working-class communities have concrete plans to ensure that all children, mothers, and elderly people have access to clean water in times of drought. Our schools may not close as result of no water and no adequate plans. Schools in South Africa with plain pit latrines and poor water supply will be most affected.
Calling for solidarity for the struggles of black working-class learners
There is inequality at the heart of South africa’s education system, and this means that climate change affects learners differently: learners in black poor schools are on the receiving end of the impacts of climate change. Learners in township and rural schools are facing immediate struggles which will be worsened by climate change: schools in South Africa built of asbestos and mud, that are destroyed during heavy rain, making the school premises unsafe for learners. The drowning of learners in pit latrines is a painful reminder of the struggle of a lack of water and decent toilets.
We call for solidarity around working-class struggles such as: school infrastructure; learner safety on the route to and from school, and in and outside of school; school toilet; textbooks; and scholar transport.
The climate change movement will continue to be seen as a liberal middle-class issue, if it does not centre the experiences of the most marginalised members of society: black poor people. Learners in townships and rural areas experience the impacts of climate change on a daily basis .