A dedicated group of awareNet learners at VGHS became involved in the campaign for minimum norms and standards for education under the direction of Dr Sarah Hanton (winner of the Judges Award of the Microsoft Partners in learning Forum 2012; in the picture above). The campaign is currently being waged by Equal Education, an NPO based in the Western Cape – but with the backup of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Grahamstown. Dr Hanton explains: “The aim is to persuade the Government to adopt a set of legally binding minimum norms and standards for educational infrastructure. The idea of this is not to set impossible goals but to have accountability and a benchmark set to allow proper planning for systematic reform. Currently many schools do not have electricity, water, safe buildings let alone science and computer laboratories or libraries. We feel that a right to an education should infer a right to a decent educational infrastructure, otherwise the opportunities for learning are limited.”
awareNet is an official co-curricular at VGHS and perfectly suited to link schools for such a campaign. It already has linked learners at VGHS with learners from previously disadvantaged schools and served as a means to engage and exchange ideas and knowledge. Now, VGHS is taking it a step further after experiencing in a previous project that not all learners have equal access to resources. Today, almost all teachers at VGHS taught with no or very limited resources, eg. no text books, electricity (so no overheads, digital projectors computers, etc.) and no photocopied worksheets. The number of desks, chairs and blackboard sizes were reduced or not used at all, some classes of different grades and subjects were taught together in store rooms, some toilets were locked and there was no toilet paper. Nonetheless teaching had to be meaningful, so it was a great challenge for the learners as well as for the teachers. At the end of the teaching day all learners and teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire reflecting on their experiences of the day and their thoughts regarding the facility of learning / teaching with few or no resources. These data will be compiled and published on awareNet and sent to LRC and Equal Education so that they can be used.
The main aim of this project was to raise awareness of the equal education campaign and provide useful statistics to equal education and the LRC which can be used in their campaign. The questionnaire has also been published on awareNet to get data from schools that didn’t participate today, most of them in the Grahamstown township area.
Teachers, learners and facilitators were interview by Grocott’s Mail and the Daily Dispatch, articles will be published next week. Tweets with impressions of the day and opinions can be found under #FixOurSchools. Two Anthropology students, Kiarin Gillies and Louise Featherstone, were on site to document the social impact of the event.