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Portfolio Committee on Basic Education encouraged to continue holding DBE accountable

13 June 2011

Equal Education Press Release: For Immediate Distribution

Equal Education encourages Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to continue holding the Department of Basic Education accountable to urgently address the infrastructure problems faced by thousands of schools.

Equal Education is encouraged by the recent stance taken by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, and particularly its Chairperson, Honourable Hope Malgas, in relation to holding the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to task in addressing the massive infrastructure backlogs faced by thousands of schools across the country.   

Last week, during a DBE report to the Portfolio Committee on the Departments’ plans to address inappropriate school structures, Honourable Malgas called on the DBE to accelerate its plans to replace mud schools with proper functioning schools. Honourable Malgas stated further that, “It is inexcusable to continue teaching in mud classrooms while there is money in the Budget to replace such structures with appropriate ones.” She went on to say that the Portfolio Committee will not tolerate reports of failures to spend budgets. Later in the week, Honourable Donald Smiles moved in the National Assembly for consideration of the Department of Basic Education’s underspending during the previous financial year. 

Equal Education welcomes the energy with which the Portfolio committee is taking up its oversight role, and wishes to encourage the committee to continue being proactive in this regard. Urgent redress and bold action from all spheres of government, including Parliament is required with respect to school infrastructure backlogs, which continue to be the most obvious and tangible legacy of education under apartheid.

For over a year, Equal Education has been campaigning for better planning and policy development in relation to school infrastructure. Central to this campaign, has been the call for the DBE to adopt National Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure – regulations which were due to be adopted and implement by the Department by April 2011, but which the Department has to date failed to adopt.  These regulations, by the Department’s own admissions and existing policy (see theNational Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment, 2011 ), would go a long way in ensuring that all Provincial Education Departments align their infrastructure budgets and plans with nationally set standards for physical functionality and availability of resources at schools.

The DBE’s failure to adopt these Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure should be included in the Portfolio Committee’s oversight over the DBE around school infrastructure provisioning. While the Chairperson is correct in asserting that it is inexcusable for learners to still have to be taught in mud schools it is equally inexcusable that the DBE fails to adopt regulations that are meant to deal with this exact issue (mud schools and other school infrastructure shortages), and then fails to give any explanation as to why such an urgent law has still not been passed months after the deadline.

Equal Education is committed to supporting the Portfolio Committee in this regard.

For more information contact:

Dmitri Holtzman 082 733 5000 / 021 387 0022

Mongi Henda 071 9699677 / 021 387 0022

Carla GoldsteinPortfolio Committee on Basic Education encouraged to continue holding DBE accountable