“We have a right to be heard when we speak about our education”

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Speech delivered by Nontsikelelo Dlulani at the Children’s Institute Child Gauge Launch, 16 August 2011

My name is Nontsikelelo Dlulani and I am a learner from Westridge High School. Minister Lulu Xingwana, parents, activists, community members, and my fellow learners, I greet you all today. It is privilege and an honour to be given this opportunity to speak about an issue that is often ignored. This issue that often gets placed at the bottom of the priority list and at the end of the political agenda.

In the past 10 years, I have faced many challenges in my personal and collective struggle to receive a quality and equal education. While growing up, I went to classes in a building that was unstable, a place that had broken windows, no electricity, no library, and a low pass rate due to a lack of resources. When you compare my school to an ex-Model C school, like Westerford or Sans Souci Girls High School, the gap in resources and opportunity become clear.

I stand up for what I believe in, but not for myself only, but also for those who don’t get an opportunity to speak out. This is why I joined an organisation called Equal Education. Equal Education is movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members, striving for quality and equality in the South African education system through activism and analysis.

I joined Equal Education because, when I looked around me, I saw how poor the education system is in our schools. I wanted to change things, and wanted to change the world. I saw EE as the way I could do this.

At EE, we as young people from different schools and backgrounds come together and meet at mass meetings, weekly youth groups, and committees to talk about the challenges that we face in our schools, and to find solutions to fix the problems in the education system.

On Human Rights Day in 2010, I was one of the 10 000 learners who marched for Equal Education for school libraries. We hoped the Minister of Basic Education would come to accept our memorandum, but she did not. As learners, we feel like we are not being heard, and that the government is not responding to our needs.

After the march for school libraries, I met with my teacher to discuss the idea of starting a library in my school. When we approached other teachers about this, they were very supportive. We opened the library with the help of Equal Education, who donated books.

We as learners ask the support from our teachers and community members to improve our school, just like they did with this library.

As the Constitution states, everyone has a right to basic education, and we have a right to be heard when I speak about our own education.  That is why I say listen to me when I speak because I have a right to tell my story.

I learnt from Steve Biko’s life and writing, who taught us that those who are oppressed must unite, and together they must be champions of their own struggle.

If we work together, we can achieve more.