FIX AND FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, CLOSE THE WIDENING EQUALITY GAP! EDUCATION IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE!
A note of Solidarity
In Solidarity and amplifying the call of our sister organisation Equal Education, Education is a right – not a privilege.
As private schools are permitted to physically re-open today whilst public schools remain closed, we at the Equal Education Law Centre are reminded of the sharp contrasts which exist in our education system and the gaps which have only been widened and amplified by the COVID -19 pandemic.
Since the closing of schools on 18 March 2020, we along with our comrades at EE and other organisations, have made many calls for clear and comprehensive plans to be made by the DBE in order to ensure continued learning and quality education for learners in public schools during the National State of Disaster.
It is distressing that almost a year later we are making the same demands for:
- adequate water and sanitation at schools;
- the provision of sufficient PPE;
- additional infrastructure in order to allow adequate social distancing in our classrooms which were already overcrowded prior to the pandemic; and
- the provision of learning and teaching support materials.
Sadly, it appears that the demands made in 2020 have to be made again, and that public schools may endure the same rocky road in trying to access their right to basic education. A right which despite being unqualified continues to be “qualified” due to the chronic under-resourcing of public schools, infrastructure budget cuts, wasteful/ irregular expenditure and lack of adequate plans.
We are concerned that the only policy which we have seen is the publication of Directions aimed at amending the school calendar. We have not seen adapted plans to address the learnings from the 2020 academic year in order to ensure that rather than school closures, learning continues in 2021.
We call on the Department of Basic Education to urgently publish Amended Directions and adapted plans in order to provide clarity and address concerns relating our demands.
We remind the Department that the right to basic education is important and that any limitation of the right needs to be reasonable, rational and justifiable. We are not convinced that the current differentiation between the reopening of public and private schools is reasonable and justifiable in the circumstances. With adequate support and resources, many public schools would be enabled to open. Such an approach, rather than a blanket approach which leads to the closure of all public schools across the country, would assist in reducing the further increasing gaps between public and private schools.