Equal Education

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Equal Education
Formation 2008
Type Community organisation
Headquarters Khayelitsha, South Africa
Membership 2000
Official languages English, isiXhosa
Coordinator Doron Isaacs (2008 – present)
Key people Zackie Achmat, Mary Metcalfe. Nathan Geffen, Paula Ensor, Crain Soudien, Doron Isaacs, Joey Hasson, Yoliswa Dwane,
Staff 30
Website www.equaleducation.org.za

Equal Education (EE) is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through analysis and activism. Founded in 2008, EE is based in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa. EE is currently campaigning for the adoption by the national Minister of Basic Education of regulations providing for National Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. On 7 March 2012, Equal Education launched a court case against Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and South African's nine provincial education MECs compelling them to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.


EE was founded in 2008. Initially, EE conducted research in schools throughout the working-class neighbourhood of Khayelitsha in an attempt to understand the various problems facing students and teachers within the education system. Following this EE ran several campaigns to attempt to address the shortcomings identified in its initial research. EE has since grown to include branches in other parts of Cape Town including Landsdowne, Wynberg, Rondebosch, and Mitchells Plain.


Since its founding, EE's campaigning has largely centred on issues concerning poor and inadequate school infrastructure, beginning with a campaign in mid-2008 to fix the broken windows of a school in Khayelitsha. EE has since campaigned for a national roll-out of school libraries and the adoption of regulations providing for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. EE has also run campaigns against late-coming in South African schools.

Fix Our Schools[edit]

In 2008, EE led a campaign to fix Luhlaza High School in Khayelitsha where 500 windows had been broken for more than 4 years. EE argued that a quality education required a conducive learning and teaching environment. In the case of Luhlaza, EE had found that teachers and learners were in agreement that the lack of windows meant that the school was too cold to study and learn sufficiently in.

To fix the problem, EE initiated a petition to fix the broken windows which was eventually endorsed by over 2000 people. Important endorsements came from Robin April (the Principal of Luhlaza), Duncan Hindle (Director General of Education), Mamphela Ramphele, Zackie Achmat, Judge Dennis Davis, Professor Mary Metcalfe, and Noel Robb. At the same time, EE began working with local government officials in an attempt to bring resolution to the problem.

A rally followed in Cape Town, which involved 450 Khayelitsha learners from 18 schools along with learners from Phillipi, Wallacedean and the Cape Town City Bowl area.

On 13 November 2008, at a public meeting in Khayelitsha, then-Western Cape MEC for Education Mr. Yousuf Gabru announced that funds had been allocated to fix Luhlaza. Luhlaza was fixed over December and January 2008/2009.


On 4 May 2009, EE launched a campaign against late-coming. Research conducted by Prof Martin Wittenberg of the University of Cape Town shows that in South Africa, 20% of teaching time is lost on average each day due to late-coming and absenteeism.

The campaign against late coming was driven by learners who encouraged their peers to arrive at school on time.

A second round of the campaign took place over two weeks in February and March 2011. In a show of support, General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, visited Chris Hani Secondary School in Khayelitsha where he encouraged learners to arrive at school on time.[1]


In May 2010, EE intervened on behalf of Grade 12 learners at two schools in Khayelitsha that were still without textbooks.[2]

School libraries[edit]

Over 93% of school libraries in South Africa have limited to no access to a fully functional school library. EE has argued that the provision of libraries will improve the quality of education, literacy rates and ultimately school results.

In September 2009, 3000 learners marched with EE from Salt River High School to Cape Town City Hall. This marked the launch of the public campaign for school libraries.

Starting early in 2010 a massive petition drive was launched by EE to garner the support of ordinary South Africans in endorsing the call for school libraries. Petitioning took place throughout the country, and about 50 000 people signed on to demand the provision of school libraries.

In March and early April, marches were held throughout South Africa calling for a government policy on the provision of school libraries. In March 2010, 20 000 people attended a concert for school libraries at the Grand Parade in Cape Town.[3] This was followed by a march to Parliament. Local star HHP performed, whilst Zwelinzima Vavi addressed the crowd.

From 29–30 August 2010, EE members and supporters fasted in solidarity with those without access to school libraries and to further the call for government to provide an official policy for the provision of school libraries. More than 5 000 people participated in the fast.[4]

Minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure[edit]

EE's Campaign for School Libraries has expanded to include all infrastructural backlogs in South African public schools. The Campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards has been EE's most ambitious campaign to date. On Human Rights Day in March 2011, EE led 15 000 learners[5] and allies in a march to Parliament to demand that the minister and department keep their promise and deliver the promised Minimum Norms and Standards regulations by 1 April 2011 – the deadline that had been put forward by the Department. The deadline came and went, and Minimum Norms and Standards were not adopted.

In April 2011, EE representatives met with Department of Education's Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) unit, which presented its plans for tackling mud schools and infrastructure backlogs.

On 7 March 2012, Equal Education announced at a press conference in Cape Town that it had filed papers against government officials for failing to deliver minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. The government officials listed in the court case include Minister for Basic Educatio, Angie Motshekga; Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan; and the nine provincial MECs for Education.[6] The papers seek an order compelling the respondents to persribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.[7] The court case will be held in the Bhisho High Court in the Eastern Cape.


EE is a movement of learner, parents, teachers and community members. The largest section of EE's active membership consists of young people in secondary school. These members are called 'Equalisers'.


EE's Youth Department runs weekly meetings for 'Equalisers.' Youth group activities touch on current affairs, politics, activism, history and EE's campaigns, and aims at deepening the political consciousness of members. Issues covered in the Youth Group curriculum include gender, economic inequality and xenophobia.

EE also runs series of camps and media and photography projects for Equalisers, and hosts an annual Careers Indaba.

Community leadership programme[edit]

Equal Education runs a Community Leadership (CL) programme for a select number of Equalisers who have either failed their matric examination, or passed matric without the marks necessary to pursue their chosen field of study.

CL interns are involved in the day-to-day work of the organisation, such as campaigning and the facilitation of youth groups and camps. They also receive intensive academic tuition in those subjects they wish to re-write.


Yoliswa Dwane[edit]

Yoliswa Dwane is 29 years old. She grew up in Dimbaza Township in the Eastern Cape, finishing School in King William's Town. She then completed a degree in Media, Film and Visual Studies, followed by an LLB – a Bachelors Degree in Law –, at the University of Cape Town. She co-founded Equal Education in 2008 and now heads the organisation's Policy, Communications and Research Department.

Yoliswa Dwane speaking to Equalisers

Yoliswa is a widely quoted commentator, both nationally and internationally, on the South African education system, and the challenges facing South African youth. Her opinions have featured in the New York Times,[8] Al Jazeera,[9] and numerous other media.[10] She has gained a significant profile in South Africa.[11] She has featured in the Mail & Guardian’s Book of South African Women,[12] and its 200 Young South Africans.[13]

Yoliswa is often seen addressing crowds at Equal Education’s marches, public meetings and conferences. On 21 March 2011, South African Human Rights Day, she addressed 20,000 students who marched to Parliament as part of Equal Education’s campaign for school infrastructure standards. She reminded citizens about the significance of Human Rights Day and emphasised the constitutional rights to basic education, human dignity and equality. She called upon the State to act on its constitutional obligations, and she called on young people to struggle for equality and freedom in a manner which is organised, non-violent, and determined. These messages echoed her sentiments at the same event in 2010.[14]

Education is not the only sphere in which Yoliswa has intervened. In 2009, she penned a highly critical article about Judge John Hlophe, then thought to be a potential candidate for the position of Chief Justice.[15]

See also[edit]

Sister organisations[edit]


  1. ^ "Cosatu: 'Get to school on time!'". Mail & Guardian. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Text book shortage causes ructions". IOL News. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Thousands march for school libraries". IOL News. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "Plan to develop a reading culture". Sowetan. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "South Africa: Thousands March for Better School Resources". The New York Times. 21 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Equal Education takes Angie Motshekga to court". Mail & Guardian. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Butana, Kwanele (8 March 2012). "Education Minister taken to court". Cape Times. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "South Africa: Thousands March for Better School Resources". The New York Times. 21 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Oprah's Africa academy graduates first group Oprah's Africa academy graduates first group". Aljazeera. 14 January 2012. 
  10. ^ "Call for equal and quality education". PolitySA. 
  11. ^ http://www.fm.co.za/Article.aspx?id=136795#
  12. ^ "Yoliswa Dwane: Co-founder and head of policy, communication and research". Mail & Guardian Book of South African Woman. Mail & Guardian. 
  13. ^ "200 Young South Africans: Civil Society". 
  14. ^ "YOLISWA DWANE’S SPEECH 21 MARCH 2010". 
  15. ^ https://www.legalbrief.co.za/article.php?story+20090706085414868

External links[edit]