Pupils voice their demands
About 20 000 pupils from primary and high schools in Cape Town marched in the city centre to mark Human Rights Day and to demand equal rights and access to education.
Led by Equal Education, an NGO advocating for equal education rights, the pupils marched to demand minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure in terms of Section 5A of the South African Schools Act.
They sang and toyi-toyied on the way to Parliament from the Grand Parade via Darling, Tenant and Roeland streets to hand over a memorandum with their demands addressed to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and President Jacob Zuma.
They demanded that Motshekga provide adequate classrooms, a laboratory, a library or media centre, a computer centre and sports field for each school.
Textbooks for every child in every subject, training and decent pay for teachers and the eradication of the more than 400 mud schools in the country were also among the demands made by the pupils and the organisation.
Yvonne Msebenzi, a Grade 10 pupil at Mfuleni High, said there was no library at her school. There were seven schools in the area and all relied on one community library.
“Sometimes we have to go to libraries in Delft and Khayelitsha because the library in Mfuleni does not have enough books with the information we need or there are just too many people there,” said Msebenzi.
A Grade 12 pupil at Hector Pieterson High School in Kraaifontein, Zweli Tshani, said: “There are about 10 schools in our area and all have to use one small library. We are hoping that the minister will hear the call because it is very difficult to pass when you don’t have a proper place to study.”
The chief of staff in the Basic Education Ministry, Dingani Ngobeni, accepted the memorandum on behalf of Motshekga and Zuma. He said the department would deal with the issues raised by Equal Education from next month.
“The issues raised here today have been heard before; they are nothing new.
“We have met with them and told them that we would be rolling out a plan of action as of April 1 which includes the eradication of mud schools in the Eastern Cape,” Ngobeni said.
He said the department had inherited a backlog of poor infrastructure which had been created over centuries.
Schools built in the past were without proper infrastructure, libraries or sports grounds, he said.
“New legislation clearly states that new schools should have a library, laboratory and staff rooms, and that is what the department is currently delivering.”
Equal Education spokeswoman Yoliswa Dwane said she was “disappointed” that the minister had not come to accept the memorandum, but the organisation was happy with the turnout of school children. “Young people in the province showed today that they have an interest in their education. They came in numbers and wanted their voices to be heard, but were disappointed that the minister didn’t show up because they wanted their elected representative to address them, not the chief of staff,” Dwane said.
A similar march is planned for March 31, to the Union Buildings in Pretoria . - Cape Times