EE rejects DoE’s statement on school libraries

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Response to DoE’s comment on school libraries

17 December 2009 

Equal Education (EE) strongly rejects and condemns the recent claim by the Department of Education (DoE) that providing decent functional school libraries is “unattainable”. This 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 calls on Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to distance herself, and the DoE, from this statement.

Ms. Hope Mokgatlhe, DoE spokesperson, commented on 30 November 2009 inThe Teacher, a supplement of the Mail & Guardian that “A stand-alone library for every school would be unattainable, given the historical neglect of this.” She also stated 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.”

The reality is this:

  • Only 7% of public schools in South Africa have functional libraries of any kind. (DoE’s 2007 NEIMS Report.)
  • These 7% of public schools that have libraries are the former model-C schools who are able to establish libraries and employ librarians through their own funds, collected through fees.
  • Since 1997 the DoE has produced 6 drafts of a national school libraries policy. None have been adopted as official policy.
  • The DoE offers no specialists school librarian posts. All posts are for teachers, and most schools cannot spare a teacher to run the library because of high learner:teacher ratios.
  • The DoE closed its School Libraries Unit in 2002.
  • In November 2008 the DoE 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, learners or education planners.