Equal Education (EE) has been staging a sleep-in outside Parliament since 12 July 2011. We had been given permission to remain outside Parliament until July 13th, 2011 at 4pm. This afternoon at 4pm, the police asked us to remove the tents we had erected outside Parliament. We complied. They also instructed us to leave the area outside Parliament. However, we indicated our resolve to remain. The police have now said that they are allowing us to remain outside Parliament tonight. However, they will be laying criminal charges against EE for contravention of the Regulation of Gatherings Act and are considering taking legal action against the convener of the protest.
Over the last two days we have been engaging in peaceful protest and assembly. This is our Constitutional right. About 100 EE members, mostly learners, have been singing and distributing pamphlets explaining the reasons for the protest. On the evening of July 12th, members of the public joined us in a candlelight vigil outside Parliament. Zackie Achmat, the Chairperson of EE’s Board, and COSATU Western Cape Secretary Tony Ehrenreich addressed the gathering.
We have resolved to remain outside Parliament tonight and continue with our sleep-in. We are doing this to exert pressure on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to adopt regulations providing for National Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. We are pressing for the adoption of Minimum Norms and Standards as they would provide the first ever legally binding standards for school infrastructure. They will enable communities to hold Government accountable and ensure that school infrastructure standards are met.
Minister Motshekga has previously stated that she needs the approval of the provincial MECs of Education in order to adopt these Norms and Standards as regulations. The law is, however, clear. Section 5A of the South African Schools Act provides that the Minister of Basic Education may make a decision after consulting with the MECs. In terms of this section, the Minister does not need the provincial MECs’ permission or agreement.
Next week, EE will be staging a protest at the Education International Congress, which takes place at the Cape Town International Conventional Centre (CTICC) from July 22nd to July 26th, 2011. We will again raise the demand for Minimum Norms and Standards. President Jacob Zuma will be addressing the Congress.
The decision by the police to allow us to continue to sleep outside Parliament tonight indicates an understanding on the part of the police that our members have the right to peacefully raise the crucial issue of a critical lack of school infrastructure which they face on a daily basis. Equal Education is resolved to continue demonstrating until Minister Motshekga adopts Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure and passes them into law.
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