Voices

EDITORIAL: The mud schools are still common, 24 years on

2018-08-13 19:13

Providing children with good education has the potential to not only unlock opportunities for them, but enable them to realise other rights in the future.

When the right to education is trampled by a lack of basic infrastructure for studies, the futures of children may be doomed.

In state of the nation addresses by former presidents and the current head of state, as well as education ministers’ budget votes, we have heard that government is working hard to eradicate mud schools. However, 24 years into democracy theses type of schools, and others without basic infrastructure, are a common feature.

The children of Dingana Junior Primary, near Lusikisiki in Eastern Cape, are suffering chest-related illnesses caused by the dust they inhale in their mud classrooms.

This human rights violation is suffered by thousands of children in similar conditions across the country.

South Africans are outraged when headlines scream about a child dying in a school, either by drowning after falling into a pit latrine, or from injuries caused when a building falls on them.

These incidents are often accompanied by more promises from politicians, only for these promises to be forgotten as soon as the bigwigs leave the gravel road and head for bright lights in air-conditioned luxury vehicles.

The question we should ask ourselves is whether government serves all South Africans, or the minority who have a voice?

Far too often the needs of the rural poor take a back seat in the list of priorities, simply because they are voiceless.

They cannot call a radio station, write to the newspapers or disrupt peak hour traffic through protest action.

The party that governs this country goes on and on about how its policies are pro-poor.

It tells us that one of its historical missions is the full emancipation of black people, and Africans in particular.

Yet it is these very people who it fails the most. How does a pro-poor party allow children to learn in mud schools while its leaders make grand speeches about how much they care about the downtrodden?

At the end of the day it is not just about the politicians. The continued existence of mud schools is also an indictment on all of us because we have tolerated the neglect of our most vulnerable and voiceless fellow citizens.

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December 15 2019