We met up with Doron Issacs who heads up Equal Education, an organization, as its name represents, which is focused on the idea of creating a social movement around the right to equal education. The discussion covered a number of issues, namely:
The concepting of the organization-, which came out of the successful campaigns in the health sector, particularly the Treatment Action Campaign, (which was focused on fighting for access to ARVs for the treatment of AIDS). This inspired education activists to create a social movement around equal access to education, which required the active involvement of communities, parents and learners.
The Equal Education approach was to set up youth meetings to get young people to determine what issues were important and what hindered their performance at schools. These evolved into campaigns and activities geared to educating communities and parents on the education system, how to understand their rights and how to work with the education authorities to fix the problems that emerge.
We discuss with Doron these challenges in education, some of the campaigns that were put into action and programmes that were run by Equal Education. In addition to the community programmes, Equal Education has set up a research and legal capacity to support its campaigns.
The organisation has grown extensively since its origin, and has an active presence in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal. They have also received great results from campaigning efforts, both in regards to the grass roots involvement of learners and communities in campaigns and the interest and positive reaction that these campaigns received from the National and Provincial Departments of Education.
Despite the positive relations with the education departments, Equal Education is currently at logger-heads with the National Department, who they are trying to oblige to set up a national standard for addressing the infrastructure backlog. This national standard, they propose, will be binding on provincial departments. This is the only way, they believe, that the huge backlog in education infrastructure can be dealt with, taking into consideration the vast difference in the capacities of provincial departments. It cannot therefore be left to the individual plans and efforts of departments to determine what is needed. A national standard will provide the basis for National Government to monitor progress being achieved at provincial level. This is a fight that they will be defending through the court system.Tags: activist, AIDS, ANC, campaigning, Doron Issacs, Equal Education, NU, Recommendations, Treatment Action Campaign