A couple of weeks ago I went into Limpopo to meet learners who had no access to their textbooks, I spent a couple of hours with each child as they told me about themselves, what school was like and what they hoped to be in the future. I am a Journalist, I do interviews all the time. But nothing could have prepared me for that Limpopo trip. See, when we talk about kids not having textbooks, there isn’t much of a story is there? At face value it’s just a child who doesn’t have a book, and I guess that was what I was expecting to find. But what I really I found were children who refused to give up on themselves, despite the fact that the government had. It was a story of determination,and I think there are only few people in this world that I will meet that will be as resolute as these kids were.
I wasn’t in Limpopo when the news about the judgement broke today and I wish I had been. I can only imagine what those kids would’ve felt when the entire country agreed that #TextbooksMatter.
It’s been a long road, but here we are. Now the whole world knows that#TextbooksMatter, But I wanted to take a moment to make sure that these kids knew what this judgement really means for them.
This is for the real TextbooksMatter MVP’s, : Tsakani Shilowe, Thabo Rasemana, Johannes Nkuna, Antoinette Mtshabe, Respect Rhikhotso, Nomsa Khosa, William Thamagana, Simon Selabe, Khomotjo Ramatswi, Nyeleti Mabunda, Katlego Seshoka, Sello Ramoshaba, Reneliwe Mohale, Risuna Ngobeni Njabulo Mahlangu, Nqobile Mahlangu, Ntsako Maluleke and Nyiko Mahlawuli.
Today, the supreme court of appeal dismissed the appeal from the Department of Education and ruled that not providing children with the textbooks they need is an infringement on the right to education.
Johannes, when we met you said to me “I feel like we are not part of South Africa, Limpopo is the last thing they think about” and Thabo, you told me that you wanted to make a difference, you wanted to make sure that other children don’t experience the same thing that you have.
Look what you’ve done.
No child in South Africa (not just Limpopo) will ever have to learn without a textbook again and it’s all because of you. I think we all knew when we started the #TextbooksMatter campaign that there was little that we could actually do for you. You were well into your final exams and there wasn’t much a textbook could have done for you at that point, despite this (and maybe in light of this) you still decided to tell the world why #TextbooksMatter.
From today, I hope you know and never forget how powerful you are. You made an entire country listen to you, and when you spoke there wasn’t a single person who disagreed with you. That’s how much we believed in you, and your dreams.
You and your dreams, were worth it.
Bravery comes in many forms. It doesn’t always have a grand entrance with marching bands or a spectacular costume. Sometimes it comes as one kid, who has to use his bed as his desk. Thabo, I remember how apprehensive you were about letting us into your room, you said it was embarrassing. There wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about, because that room is where the leadership of this country will come from.
One day, you will all have your own children and they will not believe you when you tell them that you had to go to a court of law 5 times before you got your textbooks. They won’t believe you, because Today South Africa chose equality, they chose dignity and they chose opportunity. And these are all things that your children will have. Equality, Dignity and Opportunity. They will have all these things, because you didn’t.
The South African government failed you, but still,you did not give up on yourselves. You showed up to school every single day. You dared to dream, even though you weren’t allowed too, and I am so grateful that you did that. Because if you hadn’t, today would never have happened.
Today, the whole country is celebrating this victory, but it is yours. You did this. You and your parents, principals and community members took on the entire Department of Education and you guys won. and because you did, the whole country has won. The Supreme court of appeal says : ” It cannot be emphasized enough that basic education should be seen as the primary driver of transformation”
That’s what the court has to say and this is what I have to say: I am so incredibly honored to have met you guys, I feel privileged to have had an opportunity to listen to your hopes and dreams. You will do so much for this world, I hope you never stop speaking, and even when you are most afraid, think back to this moment and find it within you to speak a little louder. We will listen.
This is only the beginning.
In ten years I am going to know an :Environmental scientist, a sports manager, a teacher, social workers, a Financial adviser, an attorney ,a Paramedic, A TV presenter, an Actress, a Police woman, an optometrist, and a Doctor. Nothing can stop you now. Go forth and conquer, there isn’t anything else to do, but to go out into the world and be great. Now that you’ve done it once, you can do it again. The whole country knows that.
I am on your team, always.
All these images were taken by Thom Pierce