Trade union federation Cosatu has thrown its weight behind mounting grassroots action aimed at getting libraries into every public school in the country.
Only seven percent of public schools have adequate libraries and most of these are in privileged former Model C schools, says Equal Education (EE), an NGO spearheading the campaign.
On Wednesday afternoon the EE unveiled its campaign in Cape Town, announcing a mass march in the city on Sunday — Human Rights Day. This will be followed by further marches in Pretoria and Polokwane (in Limpopo) on March 26 and 30.
EE coordinator Doron Isaacs told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday that Cosatu endorses the initiative “and will mobilise and throw their weight behind it”. He said the EE hopes Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi will address the Cape Town marchers in Thibault Square.
The EE has amassed 50 000 signatures nationally in support of the call for school libraries. Spokesperson Yoliswa Dwane told the M&G that 10 000 learners from Western Cape schools were expected to participate in Sunday’s march.
“We feel it is important that our campaign should unite, not divide, the country, which is why we welcome the participation of young people from both poor working-class schools and rich private schools in our campaign,” Dwane said.
The EE has elicited support from Cape Town’s metropole to the winelands. Dwane says learners from schools in Khayelitsha, Bonteheuel, Athlone, Langa, Kraaifontein and Stellenbosch all indicated they will attend the march.
The EE launched in Khayelitsha in 2008 as a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members to work for quality and equality in South African education through analysis and activism.
Sunday’s march will begin at Thibault Square in Cape Town at 11.30am and end at Parliament in the afternoon. Hip Hop Pantsula will entertain marchers in Thibault Square. Speakers from the EE and other civil society organisations will address the learners before they march to Parliament to present their memorandum to acting basic education Director General Bobby Soobrayan.
Metro Rail will provide a free train service to learners from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to Cape Town station from 8.00am to noon, and back after the march from 4.00pm onwards. Taxis to the railway station from areas in Kraaifontein will also be provided.
* On Tuesday, the EE lodged an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court challenging a November 2009 directive from Vusi Mavimbela, Director General in the Presidency, stating that “all marches to the Union Buildings and the Presidency [will] be suspended until further notice”.
Presidency communications spokesperson Vusi Mona then issued a press statement on Tuesday afternoon granting the EE permission to march to the Union Buildings on March 26.
On Wednesday the EE welcomed Mona’s statement, but Dwane expressed concern that Mona had not also clarified whether Mavimbela’s 2009 directive still stood.