|Headquarters||Khayelitsha, South Africa|
|Tshepo Motsepe, Nthuthuzo Ndzomo, Ntshadi Mofokeng, Bayanda Mazwi, Doron Isaacs, Yana Van Leeve, Nishal Robb, Noncedo Madubedube, Kealeboga Mase Ramaru, Luzuko Sidimba, Naadira Munshi, Michelle Adler, Yoni Bass|
Equal Education (EE) is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through research, analysis and activism. After two decades of democracy in South Africa the education received by young people remains highly unequal. Despite attempts to overhaul the system, class- and race-linked inequalities are still very much a part of everyday life. Education was the foundation upon which inequality was built and entrenched during the years of apartheid, and yet today unequal educational opportunities remain among the greatest obstacles to equality, dignity and freedom in South Africa. By building an understanding of the education system, EE draws attention to the problems faced by schools and their communities. Equipped with this knowledge, it offers a new way for people to participate in the democratic system and bring change to education and society. EE works together with communities, schools, teachers, principals, learners, parents, academics, researchers and the government in the belief that the rights to equality and education enshrined in the Constitution will enable the poor and working classes to realise an equal opportunity in life. Founded in 2008, EE is based in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, but has opened up more branches across Cape Town.
After successfully campaigning for legally binding minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, EE is working to ensure that the infrastructure regulations sufficiently address the urgent need for a safe and functional learning environment in South African public schools.
- 1 History
- 2 Current Campaigns
- 2.1 Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure
- 2.1.1 Background
- 2.1.2 Opting for litigation
- 2.1.3 Minister Motshekga’s first draft
- 2.1.4 Public hearings in five provinces
- 2.1.5 Yet another broken promise
- 2.1.6 June marches for Norms and Standards
- 2.1.7 Minister Motshekga’s second draft
- 2.1.8 Eastern Cape Freedom Day march and launch of Planning to Fail Report
- 2.2 Sanitation Campaign in Tembisa Schools
- 2.1 Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure
- 3 Past Campaigns
- 3.1 Broken Window Campaign
- 3.2 the Annual Late-coming Campaign
- 3.3 Textbooks
- 3.4 School libraries
- 3.5 Keeping Schools Open
- 3.6 The Rivonia Case: addressing historically-entrenched inequality
- 3.7 The Harmony Case: protecting the rights of pregnant learners
- 3.8 The Moshesh Case: improving forgotten schools
- 3.9 Marching for Light
- 4 Membership and Organisational Structure
- 5 Youth Department
- 6 The Organisation
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
Equal Education (EE) was formed in 2008 to address the many problems facing the public education system in South Africa. Equal Education believes that these problems that face the education sector result in denying the majority of South Africa's youth the opportunity to leave behind the stronghold of inequality and poverty.
Initially, EE conducted research into schools throughout the working-class area of Khayelitsha, home to around 600,000 working class and unemployed people, 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 - as well as in Tembisa, Gauteng.
Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure
Today thousands of South African learners continue to attend schools where inadequate infrastructure derails effective teaching and learning. The vast majority of schools still lack the resources that are taken for granted in wealthy suburbs. By late 2010, EE began to focus on a national struggle for minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, realizing that, to achieve a wholesale nationwide improvement in school infrastructure – a challenge confronted in many of EE's earlier campaigns – a strategic lever would be needed. This lever came in the form of minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure: the prospect of a law, to be created by the Minister as a set of regulations, premised on Section 5A of the amended South African Schools Act, to address the infrastructure requirements of every school in South Africa. As noted above, the idea of norms and standards for school infrastructure did not begin with EE; it was called for by Parliament itself in 2007, but this call had not been answered. Throughout 2009 and into 2010, the current Minister of Basic Education, Angelina ‘Angie’ Motshekga, promised to adopt and implement norms and standards within a projected timeframe on five separate occasions, either in an address to Parliament or in writing. On 11 June 2010, the National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment (NPEP) was published. It strategically identified the development of norms and standards as a “first-priority” to be “developed and fully adopted by the end of the 2010/11 financial year” (i.e. by the end of March 2011). A month later, these intentions were reinforced by the Director General, Mr Bobby Soobrayan, when he wrote to EE to confirm that “the Minister must develop national minimum norms and standards . . . by the end of the 2010/2011 financial year”, and that the norms and standards “are currently with the DBE Legal Services and will be promulgated as regulations thereafter”. To help reinforce these commitments, on Human Rights Day in March 2011, 20,000 EE members and supporters marched to Parliament. In a memorandum handed over to the government, it was demanded that the Minister and the DBE keep their promise by adopting minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure before 1 April. This date then passed without the promulgation of the norms and standards. Learners responded by sending hundreds of letters expressing their frustrations to the Minister. Against this backdrop of broken promises, EE's Campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards intensified. Over the months that followed, it gained momentum with marches, pickets, letters, vigils, camp-outs and door-to-door mobilizing. The Department, however, remained lukewarm and dismissive.
Opting for litigation
In August of the same year, EE reluctantly sent Minister Motshekga a letter of demand containing the threat of imminent litigation. The Minister responded, first by saying that she was under no obligation to pass the norms, then confirming that she had no intention of promulgating regulations for norms, but instead planned to produce “guidelines”. On 29 February 2012, on behalf of EE and the infrastructure committees of two schools in the Eastern Cape (Mwezeni Senior Primary School and Mkanzini Junior Primary School), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) filed an application in the Bhisho High Court against the Minister, all nine MECs for Education and the Minister of Finance to prescribe national minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure. The date of the hearing was set down for 20 November 2012, and EE set about organising a camp in Bhisho involving 300 activists for the duration of the case. Four days before the case was due to be heard, EE, represented by the LRC, secured a crucial victory. In an out-of-court settlement, Minister Motshekga agreed to promulgate regulations to create binding minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, admitting that it was a court case that “could not be morally defended”. The norms were set to be published for public comment by 15 January 2013, before being finalised by 15 May 2013. After years of exhaustive, determined campaigning by galvanised EE members across the country, 2012 ended on a high.
Minister Motshekga’s first draft
On 9 January 2013, a week before the promised deadline, Minister Motshekga published the draft norms and standards. To EE's disappointment, they were weak, ambiguous and retrogressive. The draft offered vague definitions and avoided timeframes and mechanisms for accountability. It stated that every school should have an enabling teaching and learning environment consisting of educational spaces, education support spaces and administration spaces with:
- Adequate sanitation facilities;
- Basic water supply;
- Some form of energy but not necessarily electricity;
- Some form of connectivity where reasonably practicable; and
- A sports field that is accessible to people with disabilities.
These provisions failed to adequately address overcrowding, unsafe structures and fencing and security. There was no clarity as to what “basic”, “adequate” or “reasonably practicable” meant. The proposed number of toilets was not specified, nor was it clear whether a battery would suffice as “some form of energy”. There was, moreover, no guarantee of additional, essential provisions such as a computer centre, a functioning laboratory, a library, and clean and accessible water, let alone a clear timeframe for implementation and an established framework of accountability. The fact that Minister Motshekga had published her January draft meant that the struggle was no longer over whether norms and standards were necessary, but over the quality of the norms themselves. Members of the public were given until 31 March 2013 to comment on the draft, and EE embraced this as an opportunity to provide the department with the comprehensive response it deserved.
Public hearings in five provinces
In March EE organised public hearings in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape, providing where learners, parents, teachers and community members could have their say about the state of infrastructure in their schools, and where they could air their thoughts on whether the draft norms and standards were adequate. The DBE did not convene a single forum to discuss the draft with the learners and teachers whose daily lives would be influenced by the norms and standards. Across all five provinces the hearings were very well attended, allowing EE members to record over 500 testimonies. These described the appalling conditions learners were confronted with, from dilapidated classrooms, leaking roofs and broken windows to inadequate or non-existent sanitation, lighting, ventilation, libraries, laboratories and computer facilities.
Yet another broken promise
Less than a week before the 15 May publication deadline, Minister Motshekga wrote to EE requesting an extension. EE, through its legal representatives the LRC, granted the Minister a one-month extension, until 15 June, on the condition that she signed an addendum to the original settlement, agreeing to the new deadline. Failing this, EE said, she would be in breach of the original agreement, and EE would renew its application to court. The Minister, however, responded to EE by rejecting the extension and stating that “six months would be a more realistic timeframe”. EE felt that the Minister had already had six months since the settlement agreement, and that an additional six months was an unreasonable request. On 11 June, at the Bhisho High Court, EE filed a supplementary affidavit to re-open the case against Minister Motshekga. Judge Dukada disagreed and declared it to be a matter of urgency, setting the hearing date for 11 July 2013.
June marches for Norms and Standards
With a second court hearing date set for 11 July 2013, EE increased pressure on the DBE by holding marches on two consecutive days in June. At the centre of the planning for these events was EE's Youth Department whose community leaders and facilitators spread the word through flash mobs, pamphleteering, and door-to-door mobilizing. On Youth Day, 16 June, the South African Youth Inter-Council Action Network (SAY-I-CAN) marched in solidarity with EE in Johannesburg and Durban to increase pressure on the DBE. Then, on 17 June, thousands of learners gathered in Cape Town and Pretoria to march to Parliament and the Department of Basic Education. At both protests, government officials were handed a memorandum demanding final and binding, quality and serious, minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
Minister Motshekga’s second draft
In the Bhisho High Court on 11 July, EE, represented by the LRC, obtained an order-by-consent compelling Minister Motshekga to publish an amended draft norms and standards for school infrastructure. The order set the date of publication for public comment as 12 September 2013, and said that the norms had to be finalised and promulgated into law by 30 November 2013. When Minister Motshekga published her second draft on 12 September, EE welcomed it as a much improved version of the previous draft norms and standards released in January. Not only did it include considerably more detail, but it also had built-in timeframes and accountability measures, which the earlier draft did not. For EE, however, there were some concerns. Although significantly improved, the timeframes did not reflect the urgency of the problem. The draft stated that water, electricity, toilets and fencing should be provided within 10 years, and all other norms, including libraries, laboratories and sports fields, by 2030. EE held a second round of public hearings in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape in late September and early October. Learners and parents spoke out against the long time frames in the new draft. It was felt that the schools suffering under the worst conditions, such as most of those visited during the Eastern Cape Solidarity Visit, could not be expected to wait 10 years for assistance. Another key concern was that of accountability. In accordance with Section 58C of the Schools Act, the draft stipulated that, six months after the norms were finalised and adopted, provincial MECs would be required to submit a plan to the Minister on how they would ensure implementation. Following this, they would also need to report to the Minister annually on their progress. While EE welcomed these stipulations, it was widely felt that these plans and annual reports should also be made available to the public, who could thereby monitor the progress and hold the provincial governments to account. In addition, EE insisted that the DBE and the provincial education departments should accept overarching responsibility for the implementation of these norms without, as had been done in the draft, making delivery contingent on the cooperation of other government departments. On 11 October, EE and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) made a joint submission on the DBE's draft Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, raising these concerns about its timeframes and accountability measures. The submission drew together the comments of hundreds of learners and parents who participated in public workshops which EE hosted during September and October throughout the country.
Eastern Cape Freedom Day march and launch of Planning to Fail Report
On 25 April 2017, Equal Education Eastern Cape launched the full Planning to Fail, a Report on Equal Education's School Visits: November 2016 in Ginsberg. This Report revealed that the Eastern Cape Department of Education (EC DoE) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had failed to meet the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure November 29, 2016 deadline. The Report also
On Freedom Day, members of Equal Education Eastern Cape marched to the Eastern Cape Department of Education in Zwelitsha, King William's Town. The march culminated with the handing over a memorandum of demands which had arisen from the findings in the Report.
According to the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, by 29 November 2016, schools that did not have access to any form of power supply, water supply or sanitation, and built of wood, mud, asbestos, or zinc had to provided with these basics. In November 2016, EE visited 60 schools across seven districts in the Eastern Cape, investigating government's compliance with its legally binding plan to fix all schools. The DBE has failed to comply with the law and to deliver on its services to the schools.
As the deadline for fixing infrastructure in South Africa's worst schools came and went on last year, pupils from six King William's Town schools participated in an exhibition in Zwelitsha, showing photos of the conditions they experience. Pupils at the Nyamezela exhibition, organised by EE, said that in spite of complaints to Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula, none of their problems had been solved. The exhibition illustrated a clear picture of how bad the situation in the EC has been and it is badly affecting learners.
Many seminars, marches, pickets and countless meetings, involving hundreds of people, have gone into building this campaign, and will continue to sustain it.The movement had organised community meetings with its members and various members around communities trying to engage with members on these issues. Building momentum, engagements with members and working towards building on ways in which could lead making sure DBE accounts on the failure to meet regulations first deadline.
In June 2017, staff and volunteers from EE in the EC held a number of pickets outside the Eastern Cape Legislature in Bhisho. The pickets included the Nyamezela exhibition that EC and movement filled in request to legislature to present findings of Planning to fail, which detail on how the DBE has failed to meet their first deadline of the Norms and Standards regulation. The legislative pickets addressing the issues that schools facing, giving department detail of daily issues school pupils are facing in their schools. In addition, May 2017 movement was given opportunity to present the findings of the report to the HOD of the EC DoE as well as members of the Infrastructure Directorate. The HOD Themba Kojana had made various promises in respect to these findings, and committed to working with EE in order to strengthen accountability
Sanitation Campaign in Tembisa Schools
For many of South Africa's disadvantaged and neglected learners, unhygienic sanitation is a grim daily reality.To better understand this crisis, Tembisa Equal Education members organised and conducted a social audit of the sanitary conditions in 11 of the township's high schools which was affecting the daily lives of over 20,000 learners. Over two weeks between 26 August and 6 September, they monitored the state of each and every school toilet twice a day. Among the survey's many findings, it was revealed that: • approximately 90% of schools have insufficient infrastructure or a dysfunctional sanitation system; • in some schools there are days when there are no functioning toilets for students to use; • learners do not have regular access to toilet paper or soap in their schools; • many schools have broken or non-functional taps, some of which are disconnected from a water supply; and • in the few schools where sanitary bins are provided, they are often full, causing students to throw their sanitary pads on the floor. The conditions viewed in many of the schools were worse than those in prisons. At more than half of the schools visited, it was commonplace for more than 100 boys or girls to share a single working toilet. By comparison, according to the Wits Justice Project, 65 men share a single toilet at Johannesburg Medium A Prison. EE's report was published on 19 November 2013, the United Nations’ (UN) inaugural World Toilet Day, which aims to break the taboo surrounding toilets and sanitation. On 25 October EE presented its findings to the Ekurhuleni North Education District Director Ephraim Tau. During this meeting EE asked the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to release a timeline for developing a plan, with three key components, to address the crisis by 8 November 2013, : • To establish standards for the supply of sanitation materials, maintenance and monitoring; • To provide timelines as to when schools will reach these standards; and • To include public accountability measures to ensure transparency and fairness Soon after this, the Gauteng Education Department announced its intention to address the crisis by first delivering 10 pre-fabricated toilet blocks to schools in Gauteng (the majority of which are in Tembisa) before 15 January, then delivering another 10 before 31 January, as well as by assigning contractors to fix the sanitation situation in 60 schools across Gauteng. EE has been carefully monitoring the Department's progress, while working closely with learners, principals and community members to ensure that their schools’ sanitation systems are being adequately maintained.
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.
Broken Window Campaign
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.
the Annual Late-coming Campaign
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. It has taken place each year since its inception in 2009.
In May 2010, EE intervened on behalf of Grade 12 learners at two schools in Khayelitsha that were still without textbooks.
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. 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.
Keeping Schools Open
In June 2012, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said they wanted to close 27 schools in the province. Twenty of these schools were in rural areas, and seven were in urban areas. The Department gave different reasons for wanting to close the schools, some of which included low learner numbers, poor school infrastructure, a majority of learners at one school coming from outside the area, and underperformance. EE accepts that sometimes the Department has to close schools. Sometimes this is in the best interests of learners, particularly in the case of small rural schools with multi-grade classes. This applies to some of the schools in this case. However, EE was unhappy with the closure of certain schools for the following reasons: Three high schools (Beauvallon, Peak View and Zonnebloem) were going to be closed for ‘underperformance’. EE's argument here was that ‘underperforming schools’ should not be closed, but that they should be properly supported by the Department. In some cases, the schools which the Department wanted to place learners in would provide them with an even worse quality of education. In some cases, the learners would not even be able to learn their home language anymore. Another of the reasons the Department gave for closing Peak View was that most of the learners, who are black, came from ‘outside the area’. EE believes however that children should be free to go to school wherever they may choose, and that people should not be divided by 'race' or geography. The consultation process undertaken by the Department needed to be more engaging of the communities. Finally, EE was very unhappy with the timing of the school closure process, simply because the Department took such a long time to make its final decision. This put learners, parents, teachers and principals in a very uncertain position. EE, supported by its lawyers, the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), did the following: When the Department announced that it wanted to close schools, EE asked for more information. When the Department refused to give it, EE fought back using the Provision of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and in the end the Department gave the required information. EE made contact with all 27 schools and met with principals, teachers and learners to find out what was happening at their schools, and to offer support. EE met with the Department to discuss the specific problems it had with the school closures. EE then made it clear that if the Department did not deal with these issues EE would take them to Court. EE marched to Parliament and picketed outside the Department's offices in town. EE conducted TV and radio interviews, produced videos, and wrote an article in the Cape Times to raise awareness about what was happening. In December 2012 EE met with the Department once more to ensure that its promise to improve the education of learners at the 20 schools being closed was being kept to. EE promised to work together with Zonnebloem and Peak View to ensure that the situation at these schools was improved, and to monitor progress made. In November 18 of the schools facing closure (their governing bodies and the SA Democratic Teachers Union) applied for an urgent interdict to remain open. The application was successful – and the Cape High Court ordered MEC Donald Grant to reinstate leases and basic services to 17 of the 18 schools. These schools will therefore remain open until a final decision is made on the matter. EE continues to monitor the situation at these schools.
The Rivonia Case: addressing historically-entrenched inequality
There are two very different realities operating in South Africa's public schooling system. The majority of schools are overcrowded, lack adequate infrastructure, books, furniture and competent teachers. Learners in these schools come from impoverished homes and do not pay fees. On the other hand, a significant minority of public schools have – as a product of apartheid – inherited excellent infrastructure with parents who have professional qualifications and therefore are able to assist the school financially and attract competent teachers. In 2011, when Rivonia Primary in Gauteng refused to admit a Grade 1 learner because its School Governing Body (SGB) had capped enrolment at 120 learners per grade, the Gauteng Department of Education instructed the school to accept the learner. The school then appealed this decision in the Gauteng High Court. What soon emerged was the legal question of whether the ultimate power to determine a public school's capacity lay with the Provincial Department or the SGB. First, the High Court ruled that the MEC had the final say. However, this decision was then overturned at the Supreme Court of Appeal. On 9 May 2013, the case reached the Constitutional Court where EE and the Centre for Child Law (CCL), represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), argued as amici curiae (friends of the court) that the correct balance is achieved neither by permitting MECs little or no power nor by permitting them total power to override the capacity decision of a SGB. Instead, they argued, a shared power is needed, allowing the two to cooperate constructively. Below this important legal question lay the social reality of unequal, separate education, even within the public education system. It was this reality which EE wanted to bring to the court's, and the public's, attention. The school argued that, in accordance with Section 5(5) of the South African Schools Act, an SGB has the sole and final say on the maximum capacity of a school. This implied that neither the school nor the SGB were obliged to consider the broader systemic educational crisis or the constitutional imperative to provide a basic education for all learners in South Africa. The province argued the opposite, that the MEC and HOD had an overriding duty to ensure that every child had a place. EE has never sought to destroy better-resourced public schools in the name of equality. However, it does hold the view that there should not be islands of privilege and exclusivity which are exempt from the needs for greater and fairer access to quality education. For this reason, EE, the LRC and the CCL welcomed the Constitutional Court's ruling that an HOD may be empowered to instruct a principal to admit a learner in excess of the limit prescribed by its admission policies.
The Harmony Case: protecting the rights of pregnant learners
In March 2013, EE and the EELC became involved in a case at the Constitutional Court concerning the learner pregnancy policies of two Free State schools: Harmony and Welkom High. At Harmony High, a 17-year-old learner who had given birth in July 2010 had been instructed to leave unless she could produce a medical certificate proving that she had not in fact given birth. At Welkom High, the SGB suspended a pregnant learner for a year, without considering her grade, age or when her baby was due. In response to complaints submitted by the two learners’ parents, the Free State HOD instructed the principals to ignore their pregnancy policies and readmit the learners. When both principals complied, their SGBs launched a High Court application to prevent the HOD from interfering with the implementation of school policies. Both the High Court and later the Supreme Court of Appeal delivered narrow and technical judgments in favour of the SGBs, ruling that the HOD was essentially powerless in such matters. The Free State Education Department then appealed to the Constitutional Court, where EE and the Centre for Child Law (CCL) were admitted as amicus curiae (‘friends of the court’). Unlike the previous hearings, the case dealt with two separate but interconnected issues: whether, in these particular instances, the HODs’ instructions had been unlawful, and whether the pregnancy policies themselves were constitutionally valid. EE argued that HODs do have the power to intervene because they are obliged by the Constitution to respect, protect and fulfil pregnant learners’ rights to human dignity, to receive a basic education, and not to be subjected to unfair discrimination. It was also contended that the pregnancy policies discriminate on the basis of both gender and pregnancy, without taking into account the personal circumstances of the learners affected. The Court ruled that, although the actions of the Free State Education Department had been ‘entirely inappropriate and undermined the carefully constructed scheme of powers of the Schools Act’, the schools’ policies had nevertheless violated the pregnant learners’ rights. Thus, the two SGBs were ordered to revisit their pregnancy policies in consultation with the HOD by 10 October. In the wake of the judgment, both Welkom and Harmony readmitted their pregnant learners.
The Moshesh Case: improving forgotten schools
In 2012, learners from Moshesh Senior Secondary in the Eastern Cape wrote an impassioned letter of appeal to EE. A delegation of EE members then visited the school to assess the situation, and found several problems that were seriously hampering learner progress, including extreme staff absenteeism, an insufficient number of educators across all subjects, long-outdated textbooks and appalling conditions at the school hostel. After repeated efforts to resolve the problem through letters and phone calls to the Eastern Cape education authorities, EE, represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), then opened a case at the Bhisho High Court in November 2012 against eight respondents, including Minister Motshekga. Founding and supporting affidavits were submitted by Palesa Manyokole, a Grade 12 learner at Moshesh, her mother Madimo Mouthloali, 9 other learners from Moshesh, and EE's National Chairperson Yoliswa Dwane. On Thursday 13 June 2013, four days before the scheduled hearing of the matter, EE, the EELC and the Eastern Cape Department of Education met in East London to discuss progress made to resolve the problems at the school and to chart a way forward. The department reported that it had made several interventions to improve the situation, including suspending and replacing the principal, appointing a new SGB and investigating the textbook shortage and the school's financial mismanagement. As a result of these efforts by the Eastern Cape Department of Education, the learners, EE and the EELC agreed to postpone the hearing of the matter pending resolution of the outstanding questions. A comprehensive settlement agreement was then signed by the parties and made into an order on 12 August. EE and the EELC have since been monitoring the implementation of these measures.
Marching for Light
On 4 February 2013, in response to the lack of proper municipal attention by the City to the absence of lights in public spaces in Khayelitsha, members of EE, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) marched through the streets of Khayelitsha to demand better public lighting. The march began at the Town Two market, on the corner of Lansdowne Road and Spine Road, and proceeded down Lansdowne Road – one of Cape Town's busiest – along which large sections had no street lights at all. Marchers called on the City to provide a plan to ensure that lights were properly maintained, that vandalism was prevented, and that new lights were installed where necessary. The city scrambled to fix as many lights as they could in the days preceding the march, and Mayor Patricia de Lille attended the march. Subsequently, the streetlight problem along Lansdowne Road in Khayelitsha has been almost totally rectified.
Membership and Organisational Structure
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.
Policy, Communications & Research (PCR)
The PCR department is EE's think tank. Its staff produces research and analysis to inform the organization's campaign work, and a publication with which equalisers and EE organisers express their views. All of EE's campaigns and activism are based on detailed research. The PCR department produces internal materials such as fact sheets and pamphlets that assist the work of the youth and community departments. For external use it publishes detailed research and policy analysis, submissions to Parliament, and briefing documents for liaising with the media and government. The same emphasis on accuracy underlies EE social media presence. In addition to its steady stream of written material – including newspaper articles, reports, affidavits and submissions to government departments – PCR uses television, radio, newspapers, pamphleteering, mass SMSing (texting), email, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Vimeo and of course EE's comprehensive website to improve public awareness and bolster the organising and mobilisation work undertaken by the rest of EE. Every quarter the PCR Department also publishes a new issue of ‘The Equalizer’ – EE's official magazine written by equalisers and aimed at young people. Its articles address issues relating to education and the broader struggle for equality and social justice, both in South Africa and abroad.
Since 2010 EE has attended every single Education Portfolio Committee at Parliament. Through this work EE helps to ensure that Parliament fulfils its function as the country's most important oversight structure, bringing accountability to the work of the Department of Basic Education. Through this work EE is able to pose questions in committees and in both houses of Parliament, to engage with MPs, to receive reports on the implementation of laws, policies and budget, and sometimes to fill committee rooms with our members to exert necessary pressure.
Text Book Procurement and Delivery: an analysis
Throughout 2013, EE conducted research into the production and distribution of textbooks in South Africa. The research is currently being edited for publication. It analyses the process of textbook publication, as regulated by the National Catalogue, produced by the Department of Basic Education. It also looks at the different procurement and distribution systems in all nine provinces. Based on these and other facets of the textbooks supply chain, the report makes recommendations for how textbook supply can be improved in our schools. This work arose against a backdrop of severe textbook shortages, brought to the public's attention most acutely by the work done by Section27 in Limpopo. EE had also successfully campaigned for textbooks for Khayelitsha schools in 2010. The 2012 EE National Congress passed a resolution calling for EE to investigate the problem of textbook shortages, and this analysis is EE's initial response. EE aims to use it as the basis for public discussion, and to encourage further research by academics.
Finance and Administration
EE's administrative staff oversees the ever-expanding operations of an organisation growing nationally. This team is responsible for the internal functioning of the organisation and its activities; ensuring that the strategic work of EE is organised, efficient, and thus capable of having the greatest impact. The Finance Department works hand-in-hand with Administration to monitor EE's growing staff complement and shape its strategic planning within the constraints of the budget. In 2013, EE employed its first full-time finance officer with bookkeeping and financial management skills, having previously relied on financial consultants. This became necessary given the tremendous diversity of EE's activities and funders, and because departments require up-to-date knowledge of their expenditure limits before planning activities. With a growing staff component we have had to ensure that robust policies and procedures are in place and that our systems work smoothly and efficiently. It is vital for an activist organisation to have a strong administrative back bone in order for it to be professional as well as react quickly and effectively to drive our aims forward.
In just two years, EE has established a strong foothold in Gauteng. 2013 was dominated by a sanitation campaign in Tembisa schools which captured the attention of the media and ultimately convinced the Education MEC for Gauteng, Barbara Creecy, to take active steps towards resolving the crisis in early 2014. The campaign's impact has also helped EE to extend its work beyond Tembisa, to the communities of Daveyton and Kwa-Thema in Ekurhuleni, where weekly youth group meetings involving hundreds of equalisers are now being held.
A systematic drive to map and organise EE's members across South Africa began in January 2013. From northern Limpopo to Bhisho in the Eastern Cape, equalisers were contacted and engaged with over the specific problems they were confronted with in their schools and communities. Leaders were identified, meeting locations scouted, and community structures consulted. From June onwards, facilitators were trained and young groups began to take place across Limpopo's Vhembe and Capricorn regions, the Umzinyathi district of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape's Buffalo district. From these footholds EE's youth groups spread and took root elsewhere. They followed the pattern of EE's strong youth groups in Gauteng and the Western Cape. In every province, campaigns were initiated to address issues such as school sanitation, non-functional libraries, lack of textbooks and poorly-managed hostels. EE's national organisers have been struck by the passion and commitment of the members they have engaged with in every corner of the country. It has been a reminder that the struggle for quality and equality in South African education is one that resonates across all cultural and geographical boundaries.
Community leadership programme
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.
In addition to the CLs, a large number of facilitators – mostly former equalisers – run the weekly youth group meetings.
Co-founded in June 2012 by three students from the New School in the United States, Amazwi Wethu is EE's youth film training programme, providing equalisers with the opportunity to develop their skills in documentary filmmaking, photography and visual-media editing. Since its pilot workshop in 2012, equalisers within Amazi Wethu have produced and edited three short documentaries which, in line with EE's Campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards, have explored issues relating to under-resourced schools in the Eastern Cape and inadequate sanitation and service delivery in Khayelitsha. By focussing on areas such as these – in addition to documenting and promoting EE events, including weekly seminars, marches and library openings – Amazwi Wethu equalisers use the medium of film to further EE's campaign work while themselves becoming more critically conscious producers and consumers of visual media. The Amazwi Wethu films have featured on Cape Town TV and at an exhibition at The District 6 Museum. For its latest film, Siwe's Journey: Sanitation in Khayelitsha, the crew underwent a training programme with STEPS Southern Africa. It later premiered at the Labia Theatre as part of the Cape Town Eco Festival, and will also be screened by Weltfriedensdienst (World Peace Service) as a way to show how youth activists are using film as an advocacy tool. Numerous screenings throughout Khayelitsha are being arranged.
Equal Education's democratically elected national council are: Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson), Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary), Nthuthuzo Ndzomo (Deputy General Secretary), Thato Masilela (Deputy Chair, Equaliser), Tracey Malawana (Deputy Chair, Post-school youth), Doron Isaacs (Treasurer), Niek Marutha (Post-School Youth Representative), Zintle Tomose (Post-School Youth Representative), Lerato Yvonne Mothiba (Equaliser Representative), Lindokuhle Mnguni (Equaliser Representative), Daphne Erosi (Parent Representative), Dumile Runwana (Parent Representative), Thabang Mabuza (Gauteng Representative), Bafana Mranugo (Eastern Cape Representative), Samukeliswe Kunene (KZN Representative), Eugene Dikgang Ramashala (Limpopo Representative), Thokozile Qalanto (Western Cape Representative), Yana Van Leeve (Co-opted), Michelle Adler (Co-opted), Brad Brockman (Co-opted).
Community and Parents
Parents and the broader community are essential to the success of our education system. Equipped with a knowledge of education rights and the ways in which these rights can be turned into a reality, parents and communities can provide their children with the support and guidance they need to learn and be taught effectively. By early 2014, EE had seven Parents Branches in Khayelitsha and two in Kraaifontein and Strand. Each one includes a Branch Executive Committee of five or six leaders who chair each meeting, take minutes and organise logistics. Meetings are held regularly, after work and during the weekends. Parent Branches are responsible for planning, coordinating and carrying out school-based activities, recruiting, campaigning (through door-to-door mobilizing and pamphleteering) and raising awareness about the many problems facing learners in schools. Discussions focus on how parents can best involve themselves in assisting their children's schooling, be it by serving on school governing bodies, setting up cleaning and restoration projects at the schools, or participating in EE's campaign work.
Key Staff Members
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 bachelor's 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 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, Al Jazeera, and numerous other media. She has gained a significant profile in South Africa. She has featured in the Mail & Guardian’s Book of South African Women, and its 200 Young South Africans.
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.
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.
- The New York Times. 21 March 2012 https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/africa/22briefs-ART-Southafrica.html?_r=twrhp. Missing or empty
- Cape Times. 8 March 2012 http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/education-minister-taken-to-court-1.1252062. Retrieved 8 March 2012. Missing or empty
- "Cosatu: 'Get to school on time!'". Mail & Guardian. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Text book shortage causes ructions". IOL News. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Thousands march for school libraries". IOL News. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Plan to develop a reading culture". Sowetan. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
- "South Africa: Thousands March for Better School Resources". The New York Times. 21 March 2012.
- "Oprah's Africa academy graduates first group Oprah's Africa academy graduates first group". Aljazeera. 14 January 2012.
- "Call for equal and quality education". PolitySA.
- "Yoliswa Dwane: Co-founder and head of policy, communication and research". Mail & Guardian Book of South African Woman. Mail & Guardian.
- "200 Young South Africans: Civil Society".
- "YOLISWA DWANE'S SPEECH 21 MARCH 2010" (PDF).