Push to Improve Basic Education

Cape Times (South Africa), May 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Push to Improve Basic Education


BYLINE: Caroline B Ncube

Equal Education's solidarity visit to the Eastern Cape last month evoked great emotion and a sense of responsibility among us all. It reminded us how social movements can drive significant change by calling pressing matters to our attention. Few are more pressing than education, because it enables people to find or create employment, to improve their standard of living and to lead dignified lives.

South Africa is committed to providing education, as shown by the country's commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The constitution provides that everyone has a right to basic education, including adult basic education. It also says that reasonable measures must be taken to ensure that further education is progressively made available as the country's socio-economic conditions and resources allow. This piece focuses on the basic or primary education sector, where the state's obligations are not resource-constrained and are immediate.

Equal Education's infrastructure for schools campaign is one of numerous efforts to improve basic education. Other efforts target the health and nutrition of learners, the provision of free textbooks in digital and print format and advocating for copyright laws that enable teachers and pupils to have meaningful access to learning materials.

These efforts complement each other. Once we have healthy, well-nourished pupils in properly equipped schools, we need to provide them with quality learning materials that do not depend on governmental production and distribution arrangements, which have been known to fail. An enabling copyright framework is also essential to ensure that teachers and pupils have proper access to learning materials.

For pupils and teachers to flourish, certain basic infrastructure is essential. This includes adequate classroom and sanitary facilities as well as running water. In certain areas, security arrangements have to be put in place to ensure the safety of those in the school. It is only in such a conducive environment that pupils can turn their minds to their lessons.

Equal Education's infrastructure for schools campaign has included marches, pickets and a court case. The lawsuit was filed to compel the minister of education to prepare regulations that outline basic infrastructure norms for schools, as required by the Schools Act. The minister eventually settled the case and drafted the regulations. Draft regulations were published in January and public comments were accepted until March 31.

Equal Education has said that the draft is unsatisfactory. It has submitted comments demanding that the draft be strengthened or else it will resume litigation to compel the production of meaningful regulations. The final regulations have to be published by May 15.

To keep up its momentum and pressure on the minister, Equal Education's campaign for infrastructure organised a solidarity visit, with several well-known change advocates, including clergy, academics, authors and social commentators, last month. The nation was touched by the images and reports that emerged from this visit and many are keen to participate in driving the necessary change.

We are well on our way to achieving school infrastructural renewal, even if the end is far off. Equal attention and focus need to be directed at other elements of improving basic education.

Most, if not all, learning materials are protected by copyright, giving its holder economic exclusivity to the use of the protected material. Materials that are original and permanently recorded in some way, such as in print, video or audio format, are automatically protected by copyright law. …

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