’Close the equality gap’- Equal Education tells the president
EDUCATION advocacy group Equal Education (EE) has penned a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, asking them to fix and fund public schools as well as close the inequality gap in education.
In the letter, the education rights group said it feared that government was not doing all that it could to prevent the inequality in the education system from widening in the face of Covid-19, as public schools remained closed until February 15, while private schools were reopening their gates or teaching remotely.
“The ongoing difference between the support pupils in public schools and those in private schools have received during the pandemic, highlights a bigger problem that has been developing over years: the massive education inequality in our country. Education should be a right, but in our country, it’s a privilege!” the letter read.
According to EE, pupils, teachers and parents - and public school communities at large - are being left behind and will be expected to somehow play catch-up. EE added that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has not said anything about how it would support learning while pupils were at home as a result of the delay.
“They (public school pupils) have already lost learning time last year, while learners in private schools continued to learn from home and went back to school earlier. Being cut off from peers (from social interaction and peer-mediated learning), supportive teachers, school counsellors and school meals also negatively affected pupils’ mental and emotional wellbeing,” said EE.
EE said the lack of funding and resources in public schools had made the impact of Covid-19 even more devastating for them.
“Government has neglected public schools, with many becoming unsafe and undignified. In many public schools with overcrowded classrooms and unsafe toilets, and where taps run dry, learners and teachers fight against the odds to achieve excellence. This is an unfair burden to carry. Many people now think that private schools are the better option, and this has made some learners and teachers in public schools feel that they are being left behind in a failing system.
“Government is setting the public school system up to fail if it doesn't give it the resources it needs. In countries where public schools are properly supported, learning outcomes are good and the private sector stays small,” the letter read.
EE said the right to education for public school pupils should not be limited “randomly” in the name of Covid-19 responses.
“There cannot simply be a blind differentiation between public and private schools. Government must fix the inequality between schools and must use all of its resources to provide the public school system with what learners and teachers need for quality education,” the letter concluded.