Education International
Education International

EI launches ‘Bring a Book to Congress’ appeal

published 23 June 2011 updated 20 September 2011

On UN Public Services Day, EI has launched an appeal for school libraries in South Africa, which are in a desperate state. Only seven per cent of public schools have functional libraries; 13 per cent have a library space without books or a librarian; and a massive 79 per cent do not have a library.

Major international studies have shown that the provision of a functional library in a school will add between 10-25 per cent to average learner outcomes. Local research has similarly shown a strong correlation and causal relationship between the presence of a staffed library and higher academic performance. Libraries have also been found to be a cost-effective method of improving these outcomes.

Teachers understand that reading is an essential part of the educational experience so Education International (EI) – the global union which gives voice to 30 million teachers worldwide – has committed itself to highlight this issue under the banner of a ‘Campaign for School Libraries’ with the civil society organisation, Equal Education, and EI’s South African affiliate member, SADTU.

Ahead of the World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, which runs from 18-26 July, EI is encouraging every participant who will attend the quadrennial event to ‘bring a book’ to help resource libraries in the local area.

The books will be donated to the South African civil society organisation, Equal Education, whose ‘Bookery’ aims to collect as many books as possible which are suitable for primary and secondary school learners. Township and rural schools with a library space and a person dedicated to maintaining the library will be prioritised as candidate-schools to have a full library of books supplied to them.

EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: “EI is proud to be working alongside our affiliate, SADTU, and Equal Education, which is a movement of young people, parents, teachers and unions working for quality and equality in education and communities across South Africa.

“Education is an essential public service, so when it is unequal along the lines of class and race, as it can be in South Africa, then initiatives such as this are part of a grassroots community and teacher-led campaign for change. It is powered by analysis and evidence-based activism to improve public investment in schools.”

EI Executive Board member and SADTU General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said: “Our goal is to ensure that every child in South Africa receives equal and quality education. Well resourced libraries will bring us a step closer to our goal as they will give our children and teachers access to more and varied sources of information other than the textbooks.”

Equal Education began in 2008 with a successful campaign for the government to fix 500 broken windows at a school in Khayelitsha, a working-class community in Cape Town. In three years, Equal Education has grown into a national organisation with campaigns from coast to coast, and is robustly supported by South African teachers’ unions, NAPTOSA and SADTU.

Some of Equal Education’s major accomplishments include: putting the question of school libraries and access to books on the national agenda; bringing down late-coming in schools where it is a chronic problem; and, through its campaigning, winning major allocation of resources to address school infrastructure.

The NAPTOSA and SAOU South African education unions will be joined by SADTU and Equal Education with stands in the EI exhibition area, where participants can deposit books and learn more about the campaign.