My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.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.BACK TO TOP