How can we make this country great?

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How can we make this country great?

Firstly… freedom and equality do not really exist because there are still people whose rights are being violated, but the government is not doing enough about it.

Equality means being treated, respected, loved, cared for, equally regardless of what or who you are.

Making this country great does not take only money. It’s just freedom, equality, education and knowledge, joy, beauty of reading, writing and counting, power of youth. Saying all these could take me all day because our so-called democratic country still needs more to make it great.

Freedom can make this country great if every South African citizen could have equal opportunities.

Equality can make this country great, if everyone, young or old, girl or boy, could be treated, valued and considered as equals, regardless of how and who they are.

Education and knowledge can change the way everyone thinks, reacts, talks and does things. Education and knowledge can change people’s lives forever. They can both open minds, open eyes and ears of those who can’t hear, think creatively, or see.

Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education said: “Communities must be the eyes and ears of the department. Your best allies in education are parents and learners in terms of making sure things run well. We want parents and learners to take responsibility for their education and to take a stand when their rights are being violated.”

Minister Motshekga, we are the eyes and ears of education.

What is the power of education and knowledge?

It is the process of learning and training people’s minds to develop and acquire skills.

The power of all this is to prepare one for a bright future.

The fact of knowing prepares youth to know the difference between good and bad.

What is the joy and beauty of reading?

The joy and beauty of reading is preparing you for a brighter future.

If the children in our schools could read and love reading as much as children in the so-called multi-racial schools, then their marks could maybe be equal. This is how reading can prepare for a brighter future.

Reading goes with enjoying, listening skills, pronouncing words, visualizing and dreaming. If you don’t enjoy reading, if you don’t read, then you won’t get to know the value of education. Because reading gives you the vision of what education is.

What is the Power of Youth?

One thing I know is that you can’t open a door in a proper manner without a key. What gives youth power is education: the key to opening locked doors, the key to life, a way to success. Education gives power to everyone who has it. Those who don’t have it are powerless.

Do you want power?

It you do, then you should want education, because it is your power. But remember, without education, you are powerless.

The power that’s education starts with reading, writing and counting, but people keep saying that we have the power in our hands.

Not all of the children in our country have that power which is the start of education – reading, writing, and counting.

Some of our brothers and sisters cannot read, write or count, because they have many problems in their schools. One of these problems is that they don’t have libraries in their schools, those libraries are not fully functioning, or they have to walk a long distance to go to a public library.

What is my own story?

There is a library in my school but for a Grade 8 or 9 learner, that library is not functioning. The information there is mostly for Grade 10 upwards.

One day I went to a public library to find information for my assignment. Most of the books that I saw in that library were not even a bit related to our curriculum, OBE-FET. Even the librarian was so moody and didn’t want to help me with my work, so I went back home without the information. That meant a risk of failing to me.

Last month when we were signing petitions in public libraries for this walk I met with the librarian in that library and she told me that the library in my school is really not functioning and she supports the campaign because my schoolmates are those who make her library over-crowded.

What do I find in a library?

Firstly, I find information, knowledge and happiness. Together these give me the excellent education that I deserve. The education that my parents and grandparents fought for but didn’t get. So I must get it because they never got it. It’s what I’m hungry and thirsty for.

Phathiswa Shushwana is a grade 9 learner at Luhlaza High School and a members of the Equal Education leadership committee. This speech was written for the Walk for School Libraries, Sept 22 2009.