Right to basic education

Right to basic educationThe right to basic education has received a major boost with the launch of the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) landmark charter.

The right to basic education has received a major boost with the launch of the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) landmark charter.

The charter lists legal obligations the government should realise to ensure all pupils in the country have access to quality education. The SAHRC hopes to use the charter to make South Africans aware of what the government should deliver to schools, and make demands accordingly.

“The charter takes this brilliant Constitution the country has and makes it a tangible activity that people can look at and be able to say their right to education has been realised,” said Lindiwe Mokate, an SAHRC commissioner.

The charter's launch heard of a variety of problems that plague public schools. Toilets in many township and rural schools are in bad state, Trevor Mulaudzi, president of the South African Water and Sanitation Academy, said.

While the charter seems to highlight the conditions under which pupils learn, Themba Mabasa - a member of the National Association of School Governing Bodies - told the launch there was a “concern” about children not in school.

“We have a number of children in informal settlements who are not at school at all.” On teacher supply, the charter says the government's obligation is to “to provide a sufficient number of teachers”. The learner-teacher ratio should be 30:1 in grade R classes and 40:1 in other grades.

All allocated teacher posts, especially in rural areas, should be filled, according to the charter. Teachers at rural primary schools with multi-grade classes should also be trained on strategies required for teaching such classes.

The charter should not be seen as anti-government, warned Graeme Bloch, an independent education consultant who worked in the development of the charter. “We're working with the government,” he pointed out.

Mokate said the commission aims to “make as many people as possible aware of charter and make use of it”. Millions of copies will be distributed across the country, she said.

“Also, what the charter is doing is empowering the parents, the children, principals and educators about what they should expect. If you are a teacher you should expect teaching materials and equipment,” Mokate added.

Nikki Steyn, an attorney at Section27 – an organisation well known for compelling the department of basic education to deliver textbooks to Limpopo schools last year – said the charter should reach every part of the country.

“The charter is not something to be discussed at a very abstract level. It actually defines the nitty-gritties of what we should expect about basic education, and it needs to be thoroughly communicated to all communities,” said Stein.

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

Advice

Virtue of Making Salaam First: Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (Radhiallahu Anhu) relates that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said: “The one who makes salaam first is free from pride.” (Baihaqi – Shu’abul Imaan 6/433)