Huge march to Parliament for better schools

Presidency and Department of Basic Education commit to respond to demands by Equal Education

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Photo of people protesting for better education

Well over a thousand people participated in a protest organised by Equal Education for better education in Cape Town on Friday. Photos: Ashraf Hendricks

Despite rain, over a thousand learners and Equal Education members marched to Parliament on Friday afternoon and handed a memorandum to the Presidency and the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The protest was organised by Equal Education.

The protesters sang struggle songs and carried placards that read “Fix our schools”, “Prioritise education”, and “Stop education budget cuts”.

“Thirty years into democracy, our education system is still extremely unequal, with predominantly black learners — especially those in rural and township schools — forced to learn in undignified and dangerous schooling environments,” the memo read.

The memo called on the Presidency, the DBE, and provincial education departments to take action on many issues in the education system, such as national budget cuts, the infrastructure crisis, overcrowding, the admissions crisis, learner safety, and the reading crisis.

Nelisa Siswana, a school learner who lives and goes to school in Langa, said that they were marching because they wanted to “put pressure” on government to get a “wake-up call”.

She said government has made lots of promises to “improve our education” but very little has changed with regard to school infrastructure, sanitation, and the availability of textbooks.

Learners call for government to take action.

The Department of Basic Education has missed its own deadline for infrastructure at all schools to meet minimum norms and standards. This is an issue Equal Education has campaigned about for over a decade. Kimberley Khumalo, researcher at Equal Education, highlighted this as a key concern of the protesters.

Khumalo explained that the effects of inadequate infrastructure in schools are overcrowding, which causes problems for both learners and teachers, and lack of sanitation facilities. She said learners have shared “how they need to line up for one tap at a school” or how difficult it is for learners to manage menstruation at school when there are no adequate sanitation facilities.

Officials from the Presidency and the DBE came out to sign the memo and address the crowd.

Presidency representative Levert Solomons said that they would “ensure that [the memo] reaches the offices of the presidency” and committed to respond within three days.

DBE representative Salie Faker also committed to responding to the memorandum and said that the DBE “regards your concerns as serious”.

TOPICS:  Education

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