Equal Education (EE)
“Equal Education is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through analysis and activism.”
Equal Education was established in 2008 as a membership-based community organisation or social movement in response to the enduring unequal educational opportunities across race and class lines – understood as one of the greatest obstacles to equality, dignity and freedom in post-apartheid South Africa.
EE has a democratically elected National Council and works in five provinces in South Africa with the aim to improve the quality of primary and secondary formal education. EE sees itself as promoting and engaging in ‘evidence-based activism’ – campaigns based on research and legal and policy analyses.
EE also deals with other issues that affect learners and communities as they arise. It tries to include and develop an understanding and analysis of the context of EE’s education struggle in order for people, especially youth, to participate in society and bring about change.
EE strives to achieve quality and equal education for every person in South Africa, through a movement rooted in activism and analysis.
EE is led by young activists and works in poor urban and rural informal settlements and communities. EE works with schools, teachers, principals, learners, parents, academics, researchers, other movements and NGOs and the government.
EE has a number of key constituencies that drive the organisation:
- High School learners, known as 'Equalisers'. Equalisers are learners in grades 8 to 12 and play a leading role in the activities of the organisation.
- Post-school youth.
- Other interested community members.
The focus of EE’s educational work is developing youth activism directed towards the improvement of education for all. EE aims to raise awareness about conditions in schools and other issues affecting learners. This is often done through campaigns, such as:
- Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure: This campaign was launched in response to the grossly inadequate school infrastructure in poor communities and inequalities of such between schools. In November 2013, The Minister of Basic Education, published legally binding Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. This is an achievement of the Norms and Standards Campaign and now it is law that every school must have water, electricity, internet, working toilets, safe classrooms with a maximum of 40 learners, security, and thereafter libraries, laboratories and sports facilities. In order to achieve this, EE members marched and picketed, petitioned, wrote numerous letters to the Minister, went on door-to-door campaigns in communities and spent nights fasting and sleeping outside of Parliament.
- One school, one library, one librarian: In the Campaign for School Libraries, thousands of high school learners, teachers and parents put pressure on government to ensure that every school in the country has a fully functioning library with a librarian.
EE’s educational approach is informed by its model of evidence-based activism. Thus education is to develop both knowledge, research and analysis skills, critical thinking, as well as the development of activism through building leadership, organizing, communication and conflict resolution capacities.
EE believes that much can be learnt from school learners and thus aims to facilitate the process of youth learning from each other and building their own movement.
Tools and processes
Key to the functioning and direction of EE, are the weekly Youth Groups. The Youth Groups are comprised of Equalisers who meet weekly to shape and influence the movement. The meetings aim to develop Equalisers emotionally, intellectually and politically. The youth groups are designed to encourage Equalisers to think critically about the education system, society, law and policy and to guide the political direction of EE. The topics of youth groups include reading historical texts, discussing current affairs, topical issues that affect learners such as gangsterism and education legislation, or strategizing and planning specific actions and campaigns. Youth Group meetings are facilitated by former Equalisers – this allows Equalisers to learn from and with young leaders who have been trained in the movement and be role-models for younger learners. There are currently more than 20 weekly Youth Groups meetings in greater Cape Town as well as Youth Groups in Johannesburg.
Amazwi Wethu, "Our Voices", is EE's youth film training programme. Amazwi Wethu aims to equip Equalisers with documentary film, photography and editing skills. Youth are provided with an opportunity to learn how to utilise media in their activism and therefore to effectively share and amplify their voices with the wider public. Amazwi Wethu develops technical skills, but builds EE’s educational and mobilizing work with community members through screenings and seminars.
EE runs weekly political education and leadership classes for ‘Community leaders’, many of whom facilitate the youth groups. Topic of such classes include:
- History of property relations from tribalism to capitalism;
- Conflict resolution;
- Communicating messages effectively.
Activities of the classes include readings, questions and discussions, mock debates, warm up games, singing and dancing.
In all of EE’s educational activities, various tools are employed including music, debate, group discussions, games, singing and peer-to-peer education, which allows for dialogical communication rather than a lecture format.
Mobilisation tools, which are also educational, include mass meetings, social media, marches, door-to-door visits, film screenings and cultural performances.
Understanding of popular education
EE understands popular education as rooted in activism – both driven by and driving activism. Thus education and mobilization are directly intertwined. EE draws on the experiences of the anti-apartheid movement(s)/forces, on post-apartheid social movements such as TAC as well as philosophical and political ideals and values such as democracy, participation, commitment, equality and socialism.