Equal Education’s Campaign for School Libraries wins action from the Department of Basic Education

Home | Equal Education’s Campaign for School Libraries wins action from the Department of Basic Education

After 12 months of campaigning for school libraries Equal Education welcomes positive steps taken by Minister of Education Angie Motshekga, the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and certain provincial departments. These include:

  • The gazetting of the National Policy on an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment (NPEP), on 11 June 2010;
  • A detailed response from Minister Motshekga to Equal Education’s Memorandum, containing important admissions, and promises, about South Africa school library policy;
  • Unprecedented steps taken by the Gauteng and Western Cape MECs for Education, in regard to providing school libraries.

None of these steps alone are adequate to the provision of fully functioning libraries in every school, and none go far enough in terms of ensuring provision of all the requirements for a functioning library, including a trained librarian. Significant gaps in policy remain. However, these steps represent progress, and constitute significant victory for a campaign that has been waged for 12 months, by thousands of learners, parents, teachers and community members across South Africa. With facts, argument, community education, leadership training and mass mobilization the working class youth leadership of Equal Education have proven that the South African education system can be transformed through the hard work of ordinary people.

For more detail read EE’s response to Minister Motshekga, sent 5 July 2010, and read further below. For interviews contact Yoliswa Dwane 021 387 0022 or wande@equaleducation.org.za.

Minister’s Response to EE Memorandum

EE is encouraged by Minister Angie Motshekga’s written response to our Memorandum (which was delivered to the Director General of Basic Education at Parliament by 10,000 EE members on 21 March 2010, Human Rights Day). Particularly encouraging in the Minister’s response was:

  • The assertion that school libraries play a critical role in developing a culture of reading, information literacy, providing access to much needed information and providing safe spaces to study for young people.
  • Recognition of the lack of centralised school libraries in public schools across the country and that the availability of a school library is critical to the effective delivery of the curriculum.
  • Acknowledgement that access to school libraries enhances literacy levels, and,
  • Recognition that learners who achieve at higher levels invariably come from well-resources school infrastructure which includes electricity, sanitation, playgrounds, equipment and access to books and resources.

The Minister’s response also dealt with three policy documents that have been central to the demands of EE’s Campaign for School Libraries:

  • Firstly, the finalization of the NPEP was promised, and this has now happened.
  • Secondly, the Minister committed her department to finalise Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. (The SA Schools Act was amended in 2007 to allow for such minimum norms, and a draft of these norms was published in 2008.)
  • Thirdly, the Minister states that the National Guidelines for School Libraries and Information Services will be adopted by mid-2010.

The above commitments are all victories for EE’s campaigning work, but they must be monitored by the media and civil society.

EE also commends the Minister and the DBE for the commitment to develop a strategy to accelerate the delivery of school infrastructure and the securing of an extra R2bn for the next two financial years to address the school infrastructure backlog.

Provincial breakthroughs

EE congratulates the initiative of particular provinces in recognizing the importance of school libraries and in committing themselves to addressing backlogs.

The Gauteng Education Department has announced that it will be developing 790 primary school libraries as part of its literacy strategy.

The Western Cape Education Department has committed itself to building school libraries in 654 underperforming schools by the end of the 2011/2012 financial year.

Every provincial government official we have encountered speaks about the importance of a national school libraries policy to fund and guide their work.

Major concerns remain at the level of policy and implementation

In its reply to the Minister, sent on 5 July 2010, EE has raised a number of questions that must be answered if South African learners are actually going to see functional libraries in their schools:

  • The National Guidelines for School Libraries and Information Services are supposed to in place by mid-2010. However, it is now July and this is yet to happen. Further, as they stand, these Guidelines read like a discussion document, provide no budget, place no obligation on schools, districts or provincial department, and fails to create posts for school librarians.
  • The Minimum Norms and Standard for School Infrastructure are not yet finalized or implemented. It is vital, in terms of the constitutional right to equality, that these apply to all schools and not just new schools.
  • Aspects of the NPEP concern us. On the one hand the policy speaks about “the provision of all essential spaces and facilities, including centralized libraries” and promises that all new schools will have libraries. On the other hand it promotes the undefined notion of “classroom libraries” and states that “it may not be feasible for all schools to have libraries.” The statement above suggests that this may never be feasible. This is unacceptable – we need a budgeted medium-term plan to get there.
  • The Minister’s response to EE, the NPEP and the National Guidelines for School Libraries and Information Services all avoid the critical question of librarian posts. All research shows that libraries, media-centres and book collections are often wasted if not administered by an adequately trained person.

The campaign continues!

The Campaign for School Libraries will continue until all of the above are addressed. Our next actions are:

  • EE will be opening a new 3,300 book library at Lavender Hill Secondary School on 14 July 2010.
  • A national Fast for School Libraries – EE activists will not eat for 24 hours between 29 and 30 July 2010.

For more information Yoliswa Dwane 0213870022 / 0827335000 or dmitri@equaleducation.org.za