Social Mobilization and Strategic Litigation for Equal Education in South Africa

Note: The video referenced in the audio recording of this event can be seen here.

This panel discussion explores how Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Center balanced the use of strategic litigation and social mobilization in their recent victory to secure legally binding norms and standards for school infrastructure in South Africa.

During apartheid the government deliberately stunted access to quality education for the country’s black majority and passed a legacy of grossly unequal schools to the first democratic government. State schools could be built on lush campuses with state of the art classrooms, or could have no windows, desks, or toilets, be made of mud, and collapse in the rain. While the Africa National Congress government did much to equalize teacher pay and improve conditions in schools, the physical landscape of schooling in South Africa looks much the same today as it did 20 years ago. This is about to change.

Norms and standards establish what physical infrastructure all public schools in South Africa are required to have and set out timeframes for their implementation: All mud schools will need to be replaced within three years, and all schools will need to be provided with water, electricity, and sanitation within the same time period. All schools will be required to provide access to libraries and laboratories within 10 years.


  • Brad Brockman was elected to the position of general secretary of Equal Education in 2012. Born and raised in Cape Town, Brockman previously worked as an editor, researcher, and community organizer at Equal Education.
  • Dmitri Holtzman is the Executive Director of the Equal Education Law Center. He obtained a BA (law and English literature) from UCT in 2006 after which he completed his LLB at UWC in 2009. While at university, Holtzman was the National Chairperson of the Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ). He was the Deputy Head of Equal Education’s Policy, Communications, and Research Department until 2011.
  • James A. Goldston (Respondent) is Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
  • Tracey Gurd (Moderator) is the Associate Director of New Enterprise Support with the Strategy Unit. Prior to this, she was the Senior Advocacy Officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative.
  • Jonathon Fairhead (Organizer) is the Program Assistant for the Education Support Program.
Date: June 5, 2014
Time: 12:151:30 p.m.
Brad Brockman, Jonathon Fairhead, James Goldston, Tracey Gurd, and Dmitri Holtzman