On the 7th of July 2012, I took a trip to the Equal Education Congress of 2012. The trip was fully funded by Equal Education (Many Thanks for the opportunity). It would be a very interesting 5 days for me. From the viewpoint of an outsider, the congress would be more of a learning experience more than anything.
Arriving on Sunday, the team was introduced to us and registration took place. The registration and off to Thembisa for the opening event, where we were welcomed by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. After that we heard an address by Cosatu member Zwelinzima Vavi, who showed his support for the movement of Equal Education. Also on the speakers line up were equaliser (the title given to schoolgoing members) Khutso Mmapheto, and Equal Education Coordinator Doron Isaacs. After the event we boarded buses headed to UJ Aukland par campus where we would spend the the next 5 days.
Monday morning was cold in JHB, but maybe it was just the Durban in me. Breakfast was served in the dining hall, as would be the case for the rest of the week. The morning started with a plenary session on youth and politics globally. Mr Rob Peterson spoke about the Arab spring ( The revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010) . I found this very intersting. How an uprising in one country can spark fury in neighbouring contries with the same conditions. After tea the session continued with more guest speakers of note. The likes of Barbara Hogan and Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola graced the podium. After lunch, the congress was then split into groups.
Each group comprised about 30 members. These would be our groups for the duration. We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing how Equal Education can penetrate more in the community and find a more efficient way forward.
On Tuesday, delegates were divided into six groups and had an opportunity to attend some really cool educational tours. I had an opportunity to visit the constitutional court, which was an amazing experience for me. I had never been to a real court before, let alone South Africas highest court. We took a tour around the entire court, and Justice Edwin Cameron graced us with his presence, briefing us of what the court does and how it works. We were then transported to Soweto, where we would spend the rest of the evening. The equalisers then discussed what kind of leadership they wanted to lead the new Equal Education. Following the discussion, it was time to meet the candidates. The candidates then introduced themselves and this was followed by a voting process.
Wednesday saw more plenary discussions around the challenges in education. Guest speakers of the likes of Nic Spaull and Veronica Mashiyi (parent) graced the podium. Further discussions around issues such as what is an EE member, and the life cycle of an EE member where discussed in groups. Further discussions of the way forward took place in the group session. Later that evening after a short break, the new Leadership was then announced, the constitution was finalised and the congress was then brought a formal close.
Thursday was the big day, the day we would march for our education in the streets of Tembisa. The day started out like every other day. Cold due to the weather, fired up from the spirit of the equaliser. Buses lined up, food packages and equalisers chanting songs of Marching. The busses headed to Tembisa and when we got there, it was time to mobilise. The first order of business was to mobilise the community. I had the biggest challenge amongst my group, Language. I do not know any Sotho at all, and on that day, I felt it. But when the march began, I put on my marching boots. The route we took was the same route that the students of 1976 took. After the march we headed back to UJ for supper and a social event. The entertainment at the social event would be the last activity of the trip.
I wish Equal Education all the best in the future. In conclusion, this was a great opportunity for me to learn to learn from an organisation whose work is directly in line with what we do. Wishing Equal Education the best in their future.