A plea to the literary consciences of our good ministers

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Maureen Isaacson wrote a piece about EE in the Sunday Independent. Access the full article here.


The DEPARTMENT of Education's refusal to apply itself to the essential job of building libraries in schools must not go unchallenged. Providing decent functional school libraries was "unattainable", said a department spokesperson, Hope Mokgatlhe, in The Teacher, The Mail & Guardian's educational supplement on November 30, 2009:

"A stand-alone library for every school would be unattainable, given the historical neglect of this."

Mokgatlhe said that "the department has focused on trying to ensure access to resources in a practical and implementable way. This involves creating and improving classroom library collections, mobile libraries, resources for schools in community libraries and stand-alone libraries that serve a cluster of schools".

This vague non-planning is no answer to the needs of communities where children are forced to walk long distances to public libraries.

It is for this reason that Equal Education (EE), a movement of pupils, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, has called on Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to distance herself, and the DoE, from this statement.

It is "a denial of the right to basic education to which every person is entitled, and a violation of the rights to equality and human dignity."

EE has drawn up a petition, which has already garnered 20 000 signatures and has arranged a march to parliament on March 21, to demand a national policy on school libraries. Dr Mamphele Ramphele, the former University of Cape Town Vice Chancellor and Sindiwe Magona, a writer have promised to join the march, which will be led by prominent activists such as Zackie Achmat.

The march will call for "one school, one library, one librarian" in all public schools.

Equal Education lists some shocking facts:

  • Only 7 percent of public schools in South Africa have functional libraries of any kind, according to the department's 2007 NEIMS Report.
  • These 7 percent of public schools that have libraries are the former model-C schools that are able to establish libraries and employ librarians through their own funds, collected through fees.
  • Since 1997, the department has produced six drafts of a national school libraries policy. None have been adopted as official policy.
  • The department closed its School Libraries Unit in 2002.
  • In November 2008, the department published for comment "National Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure" which, in tables 15 and 18, states that every large primary school and every large secondary school should have a library of 80m2.



The regulations still remain unconfirmed by the minister and therefore are of no assistance to teachers, pupils or education planners.

Equal Education has written on its website that to build an 80m2 library in all approximately 20 000 schools in need of a library would cost significantly less than the cost of the 10 World Cup stadiums.

For more information about how you can make a difference, by joining the march of March 21, or by donating money towards this cause, go to https://www.equaleducation.org.za