I don’t know where you are as you are reading this.
I want you to think about your workplace, wherever that may be. At an office, a school, university, college, at home. You strive to do your best every day, you work hard, you try to have good grades/performance/stats/work ethic. You go to work (or school, university etc) every day.
Now I want you to imagine having to work under the following circumstances and really think whether you would be able to give a successful performance every day. Would you be able to reach your full potential under any, or all, of these scenarios?
- You have no access to electricity
- You have no toilets, you have to go in the field/parking lot/wherever you can
- You have toilets, but they are pit toilets
- You have no access to water
Would you be able to give your best under these circumstances? Do any of these four points make you a bit uncomfortable, or maybe even disgusted? Can you imagine having to work under these circumstances? Many people (including myself) are privileged enough not to have to worry these issues in our workplaces.
Now imagine your children having to go to school under these circumstances. Would you accept it? Would you complain? Would you want to change things?
According to Equal Education, of the 5000 schools in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, 245 have no electricity. 53 schools have no toilets at all, 2127 have pit toilets only, and 197 have no access to water. Read those numbers again.
In South Africa, we are quick to insult the percentage of ‘failed learners’ in poorer communities. But how can we expect young people to work at their best if their basic needs are not being fulfilled? I, for one, would not be able to do my best under any of those circumstances.
We are quick to judge. We are less quick to question how we can help or raise awareness. Again, I include myself.
For those of us who are privileged enough to be unable to even imagine these four scenarios being applicable to our own education, we are too comfortable. We live in accidental, and sometimes intentional, oblivion. We turn a blind eye to things when they don’t affect us.
It’s time we start opening our eyes, South Africa. It’s time we see that what affects one South African affects all of us. There are significant inequalities in our education system.
Many of us cannot afford to help financially – I realise that. But we can all speak up and bring the inequalities in our schools to the attention of those who CAN help financially. We can all make a difference – you can start by sharing the campaigns and publications of movements such as Equal Education.
Let’s start standing up for those who are not seen. Let’s start using our platforms, however small, to bring those who need a platform up there with us. Let us make space for them to speak up, let us help them to be noticed.
Let us no longer be silent on issues that don’t necessarily touch us directly.
Let us use our voices and really live out the Ubuntu philosophy – ‘I am because you are’. We need each other, every South African of every race, culture, religion, gender and beliefs.
If we speak up, I believe we will see change.
We are quick to say that things are unacceptable, that things need to change. Let’s be just as quick to help where we can, to build others up, so we can stand together.