1976’s struggle for quality education continues
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Antoinette Sithole is taking the struggle of her generation forward through the fight for equal education in South Africa.
In continuation of this legacy, the 62-year-old sister of one of the first victims of police brutality on 16 June 1976, Hector Pieterson, who was pictured running alongside Mbuyisa Makhubo in the famous Sam Nzima photograph, has recently donated stationery worth R100 000 to Kholwani Primary School situated in Jabulani. The no-fee school caters for about 985 pupils.
Sithole says this act is anchored in the desire to restore the dignity of the African child through education.
To realise this dream, she partnered with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, Tang Zhongdong, who is based in Johannesburg. She hopes this will be the first of many milestones in driving the “culture of education” in society.
“No one can deny the boundless impact that education has, and thus, remains a very important element to anyone’s growth. That is why we witnessed the students of 1976 die for this very cause because they recognised the value that comes with being educated. But nowadays, you will realise that the conditions that some students find themselves in do not celebrate that legacy.
“Students are trapped in unimaginable crises that do not support the shining dream of what education can do for them. And that is where I found help is required. To supply students with the tools that can help them chart the way forward,” Sithole says, adding that creating a bright future for the youth is everyone's responsibility.
“That is what motivated this initiative, that each one has a role to play in supporting schools that are in need of support. Whether it’s by availing one’s skills or donating, each one has an undeniable role to play.”
This opportunity, she points out, has also highlighted the importance of partnerships that enable the betterment of society.
“The Chinese are known for their incredible standard of education, so it was a no-brainer for me to partner with them. We have discussed future projects and are open to the public to reach out to us for us to assist them with some of their needs. The Consul-General and I are here to help.”
While ordinary people have a role to play, Sithole says the government’s failure to create an enabling environment doesn't go unnoticed.
“From their ever-so-changing and confused curriculums to their utter ignorance when it comes to township schools’ lack of infrastructure, I cannot help but feel saddened by this fact. That unfortunate situation, again, has placed the black child at a loss.
“It is sad to see how schools have limited resources, outdated/broken infrastructure, and not enough support for quality learning.
“And it is from that point of view that I say that the South African government has failed the legacy of the Soweto uprising. The black child is not prioritised, as seen in how schools are still segregated as public or private.
Instead of moving forward, we seem to be drifting further and further away from the goal of equal and fair education. I don't even know what awaits us in future regarding education, but it doesn't look good."
Sithole believes that while change was indeed needed to move the country away from the discriminatory system of apartheid, some things could have been left alone and just built upon to better equip the black child.
"Yes, we were oppressed, but we were also taught actual skills like sowing or gardening that can help one earn an income. I'm sure those can be brought back to give kids an alternative to making money, especially in these dire unemployment times.
"A lot still needs to change, and all of us need to make a lot of noise in our little corners to witness real change. Moving away from just saying to actually doing, I believe I have joined many other education activists. Imagine how much more we can do if more people joined in?