“Eastern Cape education is in the “I.C.U” (intensive care unit) This is latest joke that you hear
whenever people talk about the unhealthy state of education in the province.The joke came up again at the Mini-Summit on Eastern Cape education held at Rhodes University on 25 August 2012.
But the question facing the approximately 120 participants at the summit was what part they could play to ensure education in the Eastern Cape fully recovers and is once and for given a clean bill of health.
This education summit was unique in that it was the collective effort of ordinary citizens and
non-governmental organizations who felt that it was necessary for concerned people to meet to
discuss what they could do given that the provincial education department has been put under
administration since 2011 and there were major disruptions in January 2012 cause by a teacher go-slow.
The summit was coordinated by activist group, Save Our Schools and Community and supported by a number of organizations such as the Public Participation in Education Network (PPEN) and the universities of Fort Hare and Rhodes and the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB). Also attending was Hope Malgas, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education in the national parliament.
Speaking at the event, guest panelist and education expert Professor Mary Metcalfe encouraged School Governing Bodies to take a more activist role and reminded participants that “1994 was the beginning of schools transformation.”
What was most encouraging to see at the summit was the attendance of a large number of Black
parents, SGBs and teachers, some even coming from as far as Qumbu and Libode. There was a
positive mood and very robust discussion on the problems faced. For example, it was evident that many participants felt strongly that the department of education needed to be held accountable using court action if all else fails.
One of the highlights of the summit was the speech by Professor Somadoda Fikeni, renowned
political analyst, who spoke with a steady and firm conviction on the danger of education alienating Africans from their own linguistic and cultural heritage. Fikeni recommended that African languages be given a priority in the transformation of education.
The gathering ended with a voluntary group of volunteers stepping up to be a committee to drive
forward joint activities by the attending organizations.You could feel the dedication and urgency of the participants in the room to once and for all take education back into the people’s hands. By Xolile Madinda