Over 5000 people are Fasting with EE for school libraries in South Africa It is 10am, Friday 30 July 2010. School children, teachers, parents, activists and ordinary people have been fasting for 16 hours. Their aim: "1 School 1 Library 1 Librarian". If you haven't started fasting, start now for the remaining 8 hours.
At Salt River High School the entire school is fasting today. At Westerford, a privileged school, ranked South Africa's top school last year, 245 young people and many of their teachers are fasting. Learners from schools across Khayelitsha and Kraaifontein -- the core of EE who built this campaign -- are fasting; schools such as Hector Pietersen, Chris Hani, and Harry Gwala. The anti-apartheid icons after whom these schools were named would surely be proud.
The campaign has spread way beyond EE's core areas. Over 200 learners are fasting at Oscar Mpeta High School in Nyanga. Over 100 younger children are fasting for half at day at Zimasa Intermediary School. From learners in Sehunelo High School in Free State, to teachers in Munzhedzi Primary School and the University of Venda in Limpopo, today is a day of fasting and reading. From COSATU and the Treatment Action Campaign to UCT, UFS and Habonim, schools, universities, organisations and their members are fasting in solidarity.
Last night in Cape Town 250 people, comprising mainly of learners from schools in Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Bonteheuwel, Rondebosch and the city bowl congregated in Khayelitsha to begin the Fast. Speeches, poems and and songs were delivered by learners calling for a library in every school. Learners explained how they have battled to master reading because from grade 1 there have never been enough books available. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, head of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, addressed the crowd to thunderous applause. He said: 'This is a right, not a luxury'. The issue of textbooks was raised by a learner from Langa who says in his school there are 6 to a book. SABC TV crews were present to conduct interviews and film the singing crowd. Yoliswa Dwane, an Equal Education leader, ended the event by announcing: "Tomorrow, as we end the fast outside the Book Fair at the Convention Centre, we will say that library books and textbooks are not affordable for our learners. How can we expect our children to succeed when they and their schools cannot afford books?"
Remember why we're fasting
Equal Education has been campaigning for a policy on School Libraries for the past year under the banner of ‘1 School, 1 Library, 1 Librarian’. Government has now drafted, but not finalised, National Guidelines on School Libraries, but these guidelines are unlikely to be binding and do not come with a budget allocation for posts and training for librarians, and are not tied to an implementation plan to roll out school libraries. This is commendable progress, but as it stands it is not enough to bring books into the poorest schools. The Guidelines must set as their long-term goal a functional library in every school.
We're also fasting because books are too expensive. Government pays around R120 per textbook, and sometimes almost R100 per library book. Government could do a lot to bring down the price of books, and so could publishers. That's why, in Cape Town, we're ending the fast outside the Book Fair. A memorandum will be presented to representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, National Treasury and the Publishers Association of South Africa. The Book Fair has our 100% support. It brings people together to celebrate books which is a wonderful thing. But we need to make these events, and their books, realities for the 92% of South African school children who go to schools without libraries (NEIMS 2009) and the 50% who don't have all their own textbooks (Social Surveys).
Breaking the fast
Events are scheduled for the breaking of the fast in 4 locations across the country (Cape Town, Thohoyandou, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein). Equal Education is confident that public awareness is growing and that the government will respond with a stronger commitment.
For more information:
CAPE TOWN (and general interviews):
Join EE to Break the Fast today (gather at 17:00) outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre. (Call Wande: 073 964 2816).
Join EE to Break the Fast today (gather at 17:00) at the University of Venda. (Call Caroline Madzhie, 0722938201 Carolinendivhuwo.Madzhie@univen.ac.za)
Join EE to Break the Fast today (gather at 17:00) at Constitution Hill. (Call Samuel Fenyane, 0781913703 firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contact Moses Masitha 084 273 3537 MosesMasitha@gmail.com
office: 021 387 0022