Equal Education

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Equal Education
EE10 Logo.jpg
TypeSocial movement
HeadquartersKhayelitsha, South Africa
  • South Africa
Official language
English, isiXhosa
General secretary
Noncedo Madubedube
Key people
Noncedo Madubedube (General Secretary)

Tracey Malawana (Deputy General Secretary)

Tess Peacock (Treasurer)

Yana Van Leeve (Chairperson)

Sindisa Monakali (Deputy Chairperson: Post-School Youth Representative)

Leanne Jansen-Thomas (Head of Communication)

Ntshadi Mofokeng (Chief Operations Officer)

Hopolang Selebalo (Research Co-Head)

Roné McFarlane (Research Co-Head)

Sisesakhe Ntlabezo (Chief of Staff)

Equal Education (EE) was founded in February 2008. EE is a community and membership-based movement who is striving for quality and equality in the South African education system, through campaigns based on research and policy analysis.

After two decades of democracy in South Africa the education received by young people remains highly unequal. Despite attempts to overhaul the system, class- and race-linked inequalities are still very much reflected in the education system. Education was the foundation upon which inequality was built and entrenched during the years of apartheid, and yet today unequal educational opportunities remain among the greatest obstacles to equality, dignity and freedom in South Africa.

By building an understanding of the education system, EE draws attention to the problems faced by schools and their communities. Equipped with this knowledge, it offers a new way for people to participate in the democratic system and bring change to education and society. EE works together with communities, schools, teachers, principals, learners, parents, academics, researchers and the government in the belief that the rights to equality and education enshrined in the Constitution will enable all South Africans to realise an equal opportunity in life.

EE was founded in Khayelitsha in Cape Town. In addition to the head office in Khayelitsha, EE is organised in four other provinces in South Africa; Guateng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.


A movement, led and staffed by young people, Equal Education (EE) was formed to address an unequal public education system in South Africa. Equal Education believes that these problems that face the education sector result in denying the majority of South Africa's youth the opportunity to leave behind the stronghold of inequality and poverty. Initially, EE began work in schools throughout the working-class area of Khayelitsha, home to around 600,000 working class and unemployed people, in an attempt to understand the various problems facing learners and teachers within the education system. EE has since grown and is now organised in five provinces across South Africa.

Since EE’s inception it has managed to put education on the national agenda, empower young people and become the grassroots voice of education related matters in South Africa. It has won tangible victories in schools, securing; school infrastructure regulations, billions in government funding for infrastructure, a scholar transport policy and scholar transport to over 3000 learners. It has defended the rights of pregnant students and rastafarian students who faced exclusionary policies, and been instrumental to the reform of feeder zone policies which entrench segregation. EE has prevented schools being unlawfully closed, and worked towards schools remaining democratic and inclusive spaces when new school policies are introduced. Finally, EE has campaigned and secured improvements to countless specific schools across South Africa.

Through the social movement EE has built, it addresses a wide range of issues within education. Recognising the intersectionality of socio-economic rights, EE also contributes to social justice struggles beyond education, allowing it to defend hard won democratic and constitutional gains that make SA unique as a postcolonial society. EE makes use of government relationships – built through public pressure and recognition that EE is both knowledgable, disciplined and a force to be reckoned with – to advance its campaigns through direct engagements. Access to these spaces is something EE must continually earn.

Current campaigns[edit]

National campaigns[edit]

School infrastructure[edit]

Essential to establishing the necessary basis for an improved public education system, is school infrastructure. EE aims to see a structured, systemic improvement to school infrastructure through placing pressure on the state to comprehensively implement government school infrastructure regulations; called Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. These regulations were enacted in 2013 after successful EE advocacy. EE is monitoring the implementation of these regulations through conducting regular school visits to poorly resourced schools and by engaging directly with government. Where there are failures to implement the regulations appropriately, EE uses advocacy and activism. EE has also begun focusing on the government appointed Implementing Agents tasked with school construction. These Implementing Agents have failed to perform appropriately in the past. Since the onset of this campaign, many schools have been built and upgraded across South Africa.

See Equal Education: Past Campaigns for more details about the school infrastructure campaign.

Provincial campaigns[edit]

Eastern cape[edit]

School infrastructure[edit]

In the Eastern Cape, Equal Education continues struggle to monitor and improve the quality of education in the province with the worst infrastructure backlogs and lowest matric pass rate. In November 2016, EE released a Planning to Fail report, that documents the poor state of infrastructure in 60 Eastern Cape schools. In May 2018, EE visited seven of the schools detailed in our report and found out that there were infrastructure upgrades at six out of the seven schools in 2017. The upgrades ranged from new toilets, new classrooms, electricity, and piped water, to construction of an entirely new school finally being finished. In October 2018, ventilated improved pit latrines were built at another one of the 60 schools in the report – where a caretaker had sunk into a two-metre deep pit of mud and human waste in 2015. School visits, and calls to fix the schools in our Planning to Fail report, continue.


Water and sanitation[edit]

In the Limpopo, Equal Education continues to advocate for access to proper sanitation and supply of water at schools in the province. Since 2015, students in Limpopo have repeatedly raised water and sanitation at their schools as a significant barrier to quality teaching and learning. Even though the Norms and Standards declare that all schools must have access to sanitation and water by 29 November 2016 , a report by EE Dikolo tša go hloka seriti on the provision of water and sanitation at 18 schools in Limpopo, reveal that this regulation has not been accomplished.

In July 2017, Equal Education visited 18 schools in Ga-Mashashane, in the Capricorn District of Limpopo Province. The school visits were conducted in response to persistent calls for action by EE’s high school members, Equalisers. Equalisers insisted that the confident claims made by the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) and the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) about progress in the provision of water and sanitation in Limpopo's schools did not match the reality within their schools. The Equal Education team interviewed staff members and conducted a survey of the school's observable conditions at the 18 schools. The school visits revealed that the data used by the LDoE was unreliable and that the Department underestimates the extent of the water and sanitation crisis. The Equal Education team observed that: Eleven had only plain pit latrines; Six had an acceptable form of sanitation, but too few toilets according to the Norms and Standards; None of the schools had enough usable toilets to meet what is required by the Norms and Standards; Only two had toilet paper inside a toilet stall; Only two had a tap in or near the learner toilets; Not one had soap in or near the learner toilets; Not had sanitary bins in or near the learner toilets; Eleven have no maintenance staff; Four had no water supply at all; Six schools had unreliable access to water; and only eight schools had reliable access to water.

Western cape[edit]


In 2015, EE audited over 240 schools in the Western Cape, assessing safety conditions in schools. The audit revealed deep and systemic failures to provide a safe learning environment for learners in the province. Since then EE has used advocacy, activism, and litigation to pressure the Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schafer, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) to address safety in the province. In 2018, the Equality Court ruled in EE and the Social Justice Coalitions favour, directing SAPS to increase police resources in poorer communities. EE's attention has now turned to the WCED and pushing for improved implementation of its Safe Schools Programme. EE parent members in the Western Cape have also become involved, using the WCED "Walking-Bus" model in 5 areas across the city to ensure that through safety in numbers, learners arrive to school safety.



In August 2013, EE members in Tembisa, a township outside of Johannesburg in Gauteng province, launched the Gauteng Sanitation Campaign; demanding that all Gauteng learners have access to dignified and safe sanitation in their schools. In support of this EE conducted one of the largest social audits in South Africa covering 250+ public schools in Gauteng. The social audit assessed sanitation conditions in schools. EE marched on multiple occasions and met with government officials and members of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to express its demands. The campaign included learners, parents, churches and community organisations in over 20 townships in all regions of Gauteng including Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Sedibeng and the West Rand.

In response to our campaign, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) allocated R750 million to maintenance to fix schools across the province – in addition to R150 million it had initially allocated in response to EE demands – to upgrade conditions at 578 schools serving about 500,000 students. Government contractors fixed or replaced the toilets, taps, pipes and basins at these schools. Some schools have received new toilet blocks altogether. Politicians and government officials throughout the GDE have spoken out on the need for principals and School Governing Bodies to better maintain toilets, even issuing a new manual to guide schools on how to do this.

After a re-audit of 38 schools in 2017, EE was able to identify that upgrades to schools did in fact take place but maintenance remains a challenge.

An additional focus area of the Sanitation Campaign is Feminine Hygiene. A lack of properly maintained sanitation facilities and freely available feminine hygiene products is resulting in girl learners missing school. At the beginning of 2016, Equal Education Gauteng embarked on a survey of 36 schools to which dignity packs were being distributed in order to assess the impact of the dignity campaign (19 secondary schools and 17 primary schools across nine districts, quintile 1 to quintile 3 schools) where dignity packs were being provided to. In 2017, EE Gauteng oversaw the adoption of a Menstrual Hygiene Declarationby the Gauteng-based civil society organisation working on this issue. In 2018, South African Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni announced plans to make menstrual hygiene products available in poorer schools.


Scholar transport[edit]

KwaZulu-Natal is the province with the highest proportion of learners who walk to school, yet it has one of the lowest expenditures on scholar transport of any province. Since 2014, EE has been running a campaign for improved access to scholar transport. This campaign was initially focused on learners attending 15 schools in rural Kwazulu-Natal. In April 2018 and after a court challenge which resulted in an out-of-court settlement, EE was able to secure access to scholar transport for more than 3000 learners in the 15 target schools. This follows EE advocacy which secured a national scholar transport policy in 2015.

EE is currently working to secure a conditional grant from Treasury for scholar transport which will increase learner access to transport nationwide.

Past campaigns[edit]

See Equal Education: Past Campaigns

Organisational structure[edit]

EE combines education, organising, research, advocacy, and activism to achieve success in its campaigns.

Youth organising[edit]


EE’s core members are ‘Equalisers’ – high school activists from grades eight to twelve. The Equalisers determine the issues that EE champions. They meet once a week – or, in some provinces, once a month – in youth groups in their area for political education, solidarity building, and campaign strategising. Youth group follows a prescribed programme which is compiled and implemented by EE’s provincial organising teams and by EE’s Internal Education and Training Unit (IETU). This aims to complement the education received at schools. In most poor and working class schools, history, either social, political or economic is not provided as a subject. EE attempts to fill this gap. Each week has a pre-planned educational activity. Assisted by a group facilitator, they analyse current affairs, political and economic history, and social movements both past and present. They also discuss complex facets of the South African education system, such as teacher post provisioning and structures of school governance. When necessary, Equalisers come together for larger regional mass meetings and, in some areas, Equalisers also meet in in-school meetings to discuss issues specific to their school. Informed by their lived experiences, and by the political insight they have gained, they dedicate their afternoons and weekends to planning campaigns for better conditions in their schools, knowing full well that the when the changes come they might no longer be there. It is the Equalisers’ undying fight against educational inequality that inspires the tens of thousands of supporters that attend EE marches across the country.

EE runs youth group in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, and the Western Cape with more than 6000 learners participating annually.

Leadership committee[edit]

Each year Equalisers in every school in which EE organises elect a maximum of two Equalisers to represent them in the Leadership Committee. Leadership Committee members act as Equaliser representatives and liaisons, facilitating communication and consultation between Equalisers and the rest of the movement. The Leadership Committee is instrumental in planning for the campaigns that the movement advances, and in building the momentum needed to ensure the campaigns are run effectively. Leadership Committee members also conduct in-school meetings, with the assistance of facilitators, that address specific challenges that confront their school.


Facilitators are post-school youth who, excited by the work EE does, give of their time freely to facilitate youth groups. Because many were Equalisers in high school, and all are post-school youth, they can participate in the shared experience of having been a learner only recently. As tertiary education students, low-skilled workers, or unemployed youth, they are still intimately connected to the struggles faced by Equalisers. Trained regularly in facilitation skills, they educate, organize and motivate Equalisers around the work that EE does in an exciting and participatory manner. Under their guidance, Equalisers learn what it means to engage a text, or a topic of debate, in a thoughtful and critical manner. Facilitators’ guide, but never dictate, the discussion and strategizing sessions. They know that campaigns are most effectively run, and won, when the issues tackled are championed by Equalisers.

Community leaders[edit]

The Community Leader programme is an internship programme designed for post-school youth between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. This group is mostly made up of young people that have been part of the movement either as Equalisers or Facilitators. The programme gives space for comrades to harness their leadership skills and focus on their own professional development. Simultaneously, the facilitation skills they learn and the political understanding they gain leaves them better able to organise in and around their communities. Community Leaders are tasked with coordinating groups of facilitators as they organise mass action toward specific campaign objectives and run youth groups. In addition, they create and strengthen relationships with different stakeholders such as principals, teachers, parents, education forum members, and community members.

Junior organisers[edit]

Junior Organisers are post-school youth who have been involved in the movement in various ways, either as Equalisers, facilitators or Community Leaders. Operating at a level above the Community Leaders, this group supports and helps coordinate youth department activities. Aside from daily youth department tasks, each Junior Organiser is tasked with managing the youth department’s engagement with one of the following: EE partner organisations, Leadership Committee, facilitators, or university branches. In these roles, Junior Organisers are given the opportunity to plan, run and implement programmes that they believe will strengthen the movement.Given the responsibility with which they are tasked, Junior Organisers develop valuable organising skills, allowing them to contribute to other parts of the movement, or carry their sought-after skills to other work opportunities.

Parent and community[edit]

Parent and Community Branches represent EE on behalf of the parents of school-going children and other concerned members of affected communities. Guided by principles of collectivism and community engagement, their work involves building relationships with school communities, school leadership, and other civil society organisations. Equipped with a knowledge of education rights and the ways in which these rights can be turned into a reality, parents and communities can provide their children with the support and guidance they need to learn and be taught effectively.

Parent Branches are responsible for planning, coordinating and carrying out school-based activities, recruiting, campaigning and raising awareness about the many problems facing learners in schools. Parent Meetings are held regularly, after work and during the weekends. When parent members meet with these groups, they present EE’s work, and explain the need for the active involvement of parents in their children’s education. Discussions focus on how parents can best involve themselves in assisting their children's schooling, be it by serving on school governing bodies, setting up cleaning and restoration projects at the schools, or participating in EE's campaign work. Parents are also encouraged to attend EE marches and other events where possible, so that their children (and society at large) can see the deep commitment on the part of parents to ensuring that their children receive an equal education.

Internal education and training unit (ietu)[edit]

EE’s Internal Education and Training Unit (IETU) was established in October 2014, reflecting the need for a central hub of educational content which would support EE’s youth work across the country. IETU’s mandate is to create and consolidate education and training material. This includes producing educational content for youth groups, camps and other EE events; updating and digitising existing activities; providing assistance and training to facilitators via facilitator workshops; producing user guides and manuals; and creating and distributing reading material which addresses key themes and concerns of the movement and its members.


The Research department is EE's think tank. Its staff produces research and analysis which informs the movement's campaign work. All of EE's campaigns and activism are built on detailed research. The Research department produces internal materials such as fact sheets and pamphlets that assist the work of the youth and community departments. For external use it publishes detailed research and policy analysis, submissions to Parliament, and briefing documents for liaising with the media and government. Additionally, the Research department overseas EE's parliamentary engagement. Since 2010 EE has attended every single Education Portfolio Committee at Parliament. Through this work EE helps to ensure that Parliament fulfils its function as the country's most important oversight structure, bringing accountability to the work of the Department of Basic Education. EE poses questions in committees and in both houses of Parliament; engages with MPs; presents reports on the implementation of laws, policies and budget; and sometimes fills committee rooms with our members to exert necessary advocacy pressure.


The same emphasis on accuracy underlies EE media and communications. In addition to its steady stream of written material – including newspaper articles, reports, affidavits and submissions to government departments – EE uses television, radio, newspapers, pamphleteering, mass SMSing (texting), email, social media platforms such as Facebook (100 000+ followers), Twitter (53 000+ followers), Instagram (1 000+ followers) and YouTube, and EE's comprehensive website to improve public awareness and bolster the organising and mobilisation work undertaken by the rest of EE.

Operations and finance[edit]

EE's administrative staff oversees the ever-expanding operations of an organisation growing nationally. This team is responsible for the internal functioning of the organisation and its activities; ensuring that the strategic work of EE is organised, efficient, and thus capable of having the greatest impact. The Finance Department works hand-in-hand with Administration to monitor EE's growing staff complement and shape its strategic planning within the constraints of the budget. With a growing staff component we have had to ensure that robust policies and procedures are in place and that our systems work smoothly and efficiently. It is vital for an activist organisation to have a strong administrative back bone in order for it to be professional as well as react quickly and effectively to drive our aims forward.

Governance and leadership[edit]

National council[edit]

Equal Education is governed by a National Council which is elected every 3 years at our National Congress. Additionally, experienced and specialised individuals are co-opted onto the National Council. The National Council must meet a minimum of twice a year and are responsible for setting annual strategy, approving the movement’s budget, bringing feedback from membership in different provinces to a governance level, holding management to account, and providing oversight to the movement’s activities. EE's Secretariat consists of the top six members of the National Council who are mandated to give regular political direction to the movement.

The National Council in office from July 2018 – June 2021 are:

  • Amahle Ngobese
  • Asisipho Mvana
  • Kholeka Mbalo
  • Mamaila Teffo
  • Noncedo Madubedube
  • Nthabiseng Mashego
  • Rieta Pilusha
  • Sibulele Henene
  • Sindisa Monakali
  • Siphelele Qwabaza
  • Siphosethu Mngqibisa
  • Tess Peacock
  • Tracey Malawana
  • Tsakane Sibuyi
  • Yana van Leeve
  • Zanele Modise
  • Zimbili Mgoqi


Current general secretary[edit]

Noncedo Madubedube is the recently elected General Secretary of Equal Education; the first woman to take on the role. She first began working at Equal Education as a tutor in 2012, thereafter working as a facilitator and an employed organiser. After moving to EE full time as the Deputy Head of the Western Cape at the start of 2017 she transitioned to her role as Head of Equal Education Western Cape.

Mrs. Madubedube has a Bachelor's degree in Education with a focus on Ethnomathematics and Language, from the University of the Western Cape. Her core interests are popular education, curriculum development and the concept of experiential learning. Mrs. Madubedube has a keen interest in creating youth activism spaces with organising principles that are prefigurative and centered on the politics of feminism, self-reliance and socialist gains, alongside building intersectional movements. She currently also serves as a trustee of the Bookery Project.

Former leadership[edit]

  • Doron Isaacs (Coordinator 2008–2012, Deputy general secretary 2012–2015, Treasurer 2015–2018)
  • Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson 2012–2018)
  • Brad Brockman (general secretary 2012–2015)
  • Tshepo Motsepe (general secretary 2015–2018)
  • Ntuthuzo Ndzomo (Deputy general secretary 2015–2018)

See also[edit]

Sister organisations[edit]


External links[edit]