Last Thursday I blogged about the trip Bob and I were planning, to Durban. I titled the post A Second Chance, because the last time we tried this trip, our car broke down halfway there, and we never made it to the beach.
But for me it was also a second chance in another sense. Three months ago, I had at work. A CALS litigation project I had done a lot of work on suddenly fell apart, and the families I was trying to help ended up on the street.
It was the first time in my career as a human rights advocate that I had felt so responsible for a particular group of people, and failed them. I took it pretty hard for a long time. In fact, that first attempted trip to Durban — the one that ended up in mechanical disaster — was planned to help me get out of that funk.
So this trip to Durban was also a second chance in a professional sense. I had moved on to other projects at CALS, and one of them was finally in court… in Durban. So Bob and I decided to drive out for the Friday court date, and then enjoy the weekend on the beach.
I’m happy to report that the trip was a huge success, in both senses!
The car made it all the way to Durban without a problem. And before we even got there, I got news from the office that the other side had decided to settle the matter before it went to trial. CALS won everything it had sued for, and more!
Now, I’ll resist the temptation to explain the whole background of this legal situation, and let the media coverage speak for itself.
But quickly for the foreign readership, the thing to understand is that in South Africa, public schools are allowed to charge tuition, or “school fees”. Very poor families are supposed to be exempted, so that no student is turned away for inability to pay. CALS launched this case because many — maybe even most — public schools have not been complying with the exemptions law.
You can read the rest in the Mail and Guardian, The Star, The Sunday Tribune, and The Witness. The Independent Online also has an online discussion forum where you can read some very interesting public reactions to this issue.
As my supervisor Faranaaz emphasizes in the media interviews, this is only a partial victory toward making public education affordable to all. The next step is to represent some poor schools seeking better funding from the state!