Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
27 May 2010

National campaign for School Libraries march on

A New Library for Thembelihle High School

Our national Campaign for School Libraries is aimed at securing government policy for a 10-year implementation of school libraries. On Tuesday 25 May Equal Education made an oral submission to the Portfolio Committe on Basic Education on the crisis in school infrastructure in South Africa, including the question of school libraries. To read our full submission, click here. On 15 May Equal Education, through our Bookery Project, opened a library at Thembelihle High School in Khayelitsha. Thembelihle was one of 50 schools in Khayelitsha without a library.

 Library 1

Attached are some pictures from the event. Deputy Minister Yunus Carrim, MEC for Education Donald Grant, Higher Education Portfolio Commitee Chairperson Marius Fransman, and other officials attended the event.

The significance of it was captured by Joey Hasson, the head of Equal Education’s Youth Department. Here is some of what he wrote a few days later:

Being part of the opening of the Library at Thembelihle High School on Friday was one of the greatest privileges I have experienced. As members of this movement, we have set our sights on a task which often seems overwhelming. More than this, the depressed state of education in this country – and the politics we have to engage in to change it – attempts constantly to distract us from our task.

Being present at that library opening, I felt as though I was observing a hospital patient get up after a heart transplant. And that is precisely what a school library should be. Our education system in South Africa is a lot like the tin-man in search of a heart in the fairly-tale by L. Frank Baum, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. That tin-man represents all that is soul-less and mechanical in the ‘system’ so many depend on for access to their basic right to education. Indeed it is a system that cannot pay attention to detail, cannot respond to the individual needs of learners. It is a system where matric learners can be examined on books they have never seen. It is a system that is in desperate need of a heart. A vibrant library is now the beating heart within Thembelihle High School.

 No matter what others may say, reading will forever be the heart of education. Opening a book and slowly picking one’s way through it can be hard labour even for the smartest among us. We must recognise this. But a safe, organised place to access and read books in public schools invites young people to actively change this by actively carrying more of the load that is their own education. The harder the work, the sweeter the prize.

 It has been said by others, establishing libraries in schools is the ‘easy part’ of a campaign to improve education. Perhaps even writing a policy to establish a library in every school is comparatively easy. But building a lasting culture of reading is the difficult task that still lies ahead of us. I do feel this is a sobering truth. Books are of no use sitting on shelves. As always, EE must lead the way and throw our full effort into activities in the Thembelihle Library to help build and support reading.

Thanks to all of you involved – the Bookery team, EE staff and volunteers. The library at Thembelihle was a victory on so many levels; for the learners and teachers of the school, for parents who were recipients of Apartheid Bantu Education, for the residents of Khayelitsha, for EE. It was also a powerful lesson to the Education Department, locally and nationally. The Thembelihle library proves in reality, what Equal Education is demanding in policy. Our demand remains: a library is a tool that transports learners and teachers alike beyond the harsh realities of public education in poor communities in South Africa.

Equal Education depends on your support for our activist and community engagement work. We have only just begun to build.

Warm regards, Doron Isaacs EE Coordinator — Tel: 021 387 0023 Please note that doron@equaleducation.org.za and isaacs.doron@gmail.com are the same account. You can send an e-mail to either one and I will get it and reply from the same place.

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