There has recently been much debate around the topic of education in South Africa, with particular attention being drawn to the standards of our education system. Reports have shown that when compared to other African countries and other developing economies from around the world, our education system is ranked considerably lower. Our low ranking position could be attributed to poor results in subjects such as mathematics, literature and science, all of which are instrumental in progressing on to tertiary education. And with the controversy surrounding the text book shortages in certain provinces, the way in which this problem is being dealt with doesn’t seem to inspire much confidence in learners and parents alike.
Adding fuel to this fire is the worrying literacy rate of the public at large. Parents are not able to help their children with problem subjects as they themselves have experienced a lack of proper schooling. While poor service delivery and a lack of resources and infrastructure may not be the reality for all South African students, it is certainly something that affects a vast majority of school going children. As the divide between schools who are well resourced and those that are under resourced continues to grow, tremendous pressure has been placed on those responsible for the well being of South African learners to work towards a solution to these problems.
In worrying times like these when the voices of parent committees, student representative councils and school governing bodies appear to fall on deaf ears, the work of organizations such as Equal Education (EE) come to the forefront in the fight for an increase in the standard of education. EE is a community and membership based organization operating from Khayelitsha that has dedicated it’s time to advocating for quality and equality in the South African education system. They consider themselves a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members who engage in evidence based activism in an effort to improve the nation’s schools.
Some of their work has consisted of successful campaigning for the repairing of school buildings in impoverished townships and also assisting in the major problem of children continuously arriving late to school. Most recently EE has been hard at work on new campaigns that call for a National Policy on School Libraries as well as Minimum Standards and Norms for School Infrastructure. Examples of such campaigns include picket protests coordinated by EE outside the offices of the Western Cape Education Department, a mass email and fax message initiative where the public can forward their concerns to the Minister of Basic Education and also a Human Rights Day march.
The valiant efforts made by Equal Education with the support of learners and the affected communities at large has led to an important court case on November 20th, 2012 between EE and the Minister of Education. This is where the case for Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure will finally be heard. This is a major victory for the many disadvantaged learners and under resourced schools across the country as the case itself will question and define individuals rights to education under our Constitution.