Equal Education (EE) has campaigned for Minimum Norms and Stanards for school infrastructure since 2010. What began as campaign for school libraries has evolved into a larger campaign that calls for all schools to be provided with a minimum level of school infrastructure. EE has recognised the importance of school infrastructure in creating a suitable environment where teaching and learning can happen. Since the behginging of the campaign EE has petitioned, picketed, fasted, slept outside Parliament and protested repeatedly in an attempt to pressure the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to adopt Minimum Norms and Standards. It is after exhausting the available democratic means that EE has, with regret, resorted to legal action.
What are Minimum Norms and Standards?
Currently, there is no definition of what a school in South Africa must look like. Because of this there are nearly 400 schools in the Eastern Cape that are made out of mud shacks. The Minimum Norms and Standards policy is a set of regulations that will set the basic level of infrastructure that every school must meet in order to function properly. These regulations will relate to important infrastructure like toilets, running water, electricty, libraries, safe classrooms and perimeter security . The policy will also state that no school can operate without having certain basic infrastructure. This will allow schools to hold Government accountable and put pressure on Government to deliver.
Why are Minimum Norms and Standards important?
Education in South Africa is highly unequal. Decades of Apartheid policy meant that previously white schools received more funding than schools in black, coloured and Indian communities. Many of the inequalities created during Apartheid remain today – eighteen years into our new democracy.
These imbalances are particularly noticeable in school infrastructure. The Norms and Standards policy is a way in which South Africa can address these imbalances, by officially defining the facilities a school should have. It is hoped that the adoption of this regulation will lead to a more level playing field for basic education.
In June 2010 the National Policy for An Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment was published. This policy recognises that every school needs a library. It also states that “National Norms and Standards will be developed and will be fully adopted by the end of the 2010/2011 financial year.”
The right to a basic education cannot be seen as separate from the conditions under which learners are taught. Without a uniform standard across the country South Africa’s education system, and the learners it produces, will continue to be defined by historical inequality.
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Excerpts from 'The State of the Education', a short documentary film directed by Dave Dornbrack and produced by Machon du Toit. EE Coordinator Doron Isaacs explains our Campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards, while high school principal Jimmy de Villiers highlights some of the infrastructure shortfalls in schools. We thank the filmmaker for his kind permission to post these excerpts.