Equal Education (EE) is a movement of learners, parents, and teachers striving for quality and equality in South African education through analysis and activism.
A democratic movement, EE collectively identifies systemic and localised problems affecting the quality of education being provided to learners throughout South African schools and then undertakes strategic actions to remedy these identified problems. Issues of inequality in education are address through public action and advocacy using mass mobilisation and traditional and new media to build public pressure on the relevant stakeholders to address problems.
Policy engagement and research is also a significant aspect of our work; issues are analysed deeply on order to be able to make effective recommendations for improvements, and submissions on various government processes and documents are made to both the legislative and the executive branches of government regularly. When appropriate EE uses legal interventions through its strategic partner the Equal Education Law Centre to secure learners rights.
A democratic movement, EE’s National Council, made up of learners, parents, post-school youth, and experienced activists, along with its General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary are elected at our National Congress; held every three years. The National Congress along with the National Council are mandate to direct the work EE undertakes.
EE organises learners in public schools in Gauteng, Limpopo, Kwazulu Natal, the Eastern Cape, and the Western Cape. This is done through what we call Youth Group. Youth group is comprised of high school learners, known as Equalisers, who meet each week. The weekly meetings provide the regular contact equalisers need to shape and influence the movement. In youth group, equalisers learn the content, values, discipline and self-confidence necessary for their intellectual, political and leadership development. Specifically, youth group programming is designed to encourage equalisers to think critically about our education system, society, law and policy, and ultimately provide insight and guidance for the political direction of EE. The content of youth groups include reading historical texts, discussing current affairs, learning about how the education system works, or planning a specific action to address an educational problem in a school.
Youth group meetings are predominately facilitated by former Equalisers who have graduated to being facilitators. This model allows Equalisers to learn from and with young leaders who have been trained in the movement and are from their respective areas. Equalisers are in turn able to serve as role-models to their peers and to be agents of change in their schools.
Youth group is the foundation of EE’s ability to develop and mobilise young activist leaders committed to fighting educational inequality.
In addition to learner, EE also organises parents in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Equal Education’s parent branches strive to mobilise parents to become involved in their children’s education, and to equip parents with the necessary skills they need to do this. This includes knowing their children’s educational rights and insisting that they are upheld, as well as providing their children with the support and guidance they need to make a success of their education. Parent members aim to play a positive role in their children’s education by taking the initiative by being directly involved in their children’s schooling, by serving on school governing bodies, or starting clean-up and restoration projects at schools. EE parent members hold regular meetings after work and on weekends. Discussions focus on how parents can get involved in assisting their children’s school and involve themselves in EE’s campaigns. The door-to-door campaigning by parent members plays a crucial role in explaining EE’s campaigns to their communities.
Equal Education attends briefings between the Department of Basic Education and various portfolio committees in Parliament. In setting a best practice model, our parliamentary and advocacy office is effective in tracking education policy changes, budgets, and in building relationships with government and parliamentary officials. The material gathered from these briefings is used to inform research in our Policy and Training Department.
We also lobby members of parliament from various portfolio committees and across party lines in order to garner support for our campaigns and research. Through this direct interaction with members of parliament, we are able to acquire extensive information through lobbying. Furthermore, any questions that EE may have and cannot attain directly from the department of education can usually be accessed through a member of parliament. This engagement strengthens Parliament’s ability to hold the executive branch of government to account.
EE has begun to focus more on provincial legislatures, particularly the Western Cape, where there are numerous challenges with regard to education and school infrastructure.
Amazwi Wethu – “Our Voices” in isiXhosa – was Equal Education’s youth film training programme, which came to an end in 2017. Amazwi Wethu taught Equalisers documentary film, photography and editing skills, while also promoting media literacy. Equalisers become critically conscious producers and consumers of film as they learn how to utilise media in their activism.
Media advocacy can be a powerful tool to amplify young peoples’ voices in a digitising global community. The Equalisers took complete ownership of the production and editing process, empowering them to share their voices in their movement for quality and equality in South African education.
The content that has been produced by the Amazwi Wethu Equalisers not only stands as testament to their developing technical skills, but also supports EE’s work to educate and mobilise members of the community through screenings and seminars.
While the Amazwi Wethu programme has come to an end, the films are available on Equal Education’s YouTube channel. Screenings of the films are announced on Twitter and Facebook.OUR MOVEMENT