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In South Africa, a Lesson in Equality 40 Years in the Making

Brad Brockman
2:09
Still image from “The Struggle for Equality in South Africa Starts in the Classroom.” Equal Education, the township-based movement of school pupils and parents, of which Brockman is general secretary, is dedicated to finally achieving victory for equality and quality education for the 75 percent of the country’s young people still in township schools.

Brad Brockman belongs to a generation of young leaders who are rebuilding the grassroots mobilization and democratic practice that gave the South African liberation movement both its legitimacy and its unstoppable impetus.

Equal Education, the township-based movement of school pupils and parents, of which Brockman is general secretary, is dedicated to finally achieving victory for equality and quality education for the 75 percent of the country’s young people still in poorly performing and under-resourced schools in townships and poor rural areas.

This is the struggle their parents’ generation started in the 1976 Soweto riots nearly 40 years ago, in which up to 700 young black South African’s lost their lives—the unfinished struggle that the last 20 years of African National Congress leadership has not yet managed to win.

There are no Hector Pietersons, no martyrs yet, in the struggle for education justice in South Africa under the current democratic government. Yet Equal Education’s tactics must be an uncomfortable reminder of a proud tradition to an incumbent political leadership that has to rely for continuing support not on its current achievements but rather on long-suffering loyalty, empty promises, and nostalgia. 

Brad Brockman reveals himself to be a thoughtful, gentle, yet powerful young leader. In the video above, he provides insights into the hopes of a young generation, its tactical use of litigation, and the ingenuity of mobilization methods in political struggle.

His ideas offer inspiration for transformation beyond South Africa: reimagining education for an open society and for all who fight for equal chances, equal education, and a more just world.

Equal Education is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

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