This week and next as of the 13th – 21st of March 2017, South Africa celebrates, National Library Week under the theme, “My Library, Your Library”.
SA Library Week was officially celebrated for the first time in 2002 and has become a very important date on the national calendar.
However, Madam Speaker, it is important to note that 845 public ordinary schools in Gauteng do not have fully stocked and functional libraries, denying learners the opportunity to broaden their knowledge base in subjects outside the school curriculum, as well as supplement their classroom learning.
Most of the schools without working libraries are in poor areas, and the DA is particularly concerned about the effects on the poorest of the poor – who have no other way of obtaining information and knowledge.
The current low education outcomes are not surprising. Gauteng’s poor will continue to remain at a disadvantage and will continue to struggle to get jobs or some form of higher education if the capacitation of libraries is not prioritised.
MEC Panyaza Lesufi claims a number of reasons for this shortfall, such as budgetary constraints, school budgets not being ring-fenced for libraries and that schools built before 1994 were built without libraries.
The DA believes that the MEC’s arguments hold no merit, as the department has had more than two decades to wipe out the backlog. If anything, libraries are simply not a departmental priority and most recently, the allocations to the Community Services Library Grant were reduced as a result of slow spending patterns.
Madam Speaker, this house should support the call to increase the number of school libraries and community libraries in poor communities across the province.
Mike Moriarty MPL
DA Gauteng Provincial Legislature Chief Whip
082 492 4410