Equal Education (EE) is embarking on a nation-wide tour following the publication of draft Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. EE will visit KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape to hold public hearings on school infrastructure and collect testimonies. The public hearings will allow learners, parents, teachers and community members to comment on the draft and call for quality school infrastructure. The first public hearing will take place this Saturday, 3 March 2013, in Nquthu, KwaZulu-Natal.
EQUAL EDUCATION’S CAMPAIGN FOR MINIMUM NORMS AND STANDARDS
For the last two years EE has campaigned for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. These norms and standards would provide binding, national regulations for public school infrastructure. After two years of petitioning, picketing, marching and fasting the decision was taken to take Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to court. The date of the court case was set down for 20 November 2012 in the Bhisho High Court in the Eastern Cape. A week before the court case was set to start Minister Motshekga offered to settle the case. She admitted it was a court case that “could not be morally defended.”
In the settlement agreement Minister Motshekga agreed to published Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. On 9 January 2013 Minister Motshekga published draft Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure for public comment.
Minister Motshekga’s 2013 draft Minimum Norms and Standards are disappointing. They are retrogressive when compared to previous drafts. In 2008, the former Minister of Basic Education Naledi Pandor published a 91 page document that described, in great detail, what infrastructure public school should have. The 2008 draft is specific and clear, it set a clear timeline for meeting goals and sets clear numerical goals that create the necessary framework to ensure accountability and effective monitoring. The 2013 Draft is a weak document that offers vague definitions and avoids commitment or timelines. It merely directs the Minister to release guidelines which avoid any mechanism for ensuring accountability and providing proper redress for failing to meet standards.
The Draft states every school must have an enabling teaching and learning environment comprising educational spaces, education support spaces and administration spaces with:
a. Adequate sanitation facilities;
b. Basic water supply;
c. Some form of energy but not necessarily electricity;
d. Some form of connectivity where reasonably practicable; and
e. A sports field that is accessible to people with disabilities.
These very basic standards are not enough. The Draft does not tell us what adequate, basic or reasonably practicable mean. It does not say how many toilets there should be in each school. It is unclear if every school must have electricity or if a battery counts as some form of energy. This 2013 Draft fails schools by not addressing overcrowding in schools, unsafe structures, it does not adequately address school sanitation, and it does not guarantee the provision of computer centres, functioning laboratories, libraries, clean and accessible water, and security in schools.
Minister Motshekga has taken a step backwards with regards to basic school infrastructure provision. Members of the public can make submissions on the draft until 31 March 2013.
EE TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS
As EE, we invite the public to participate in this commentary process and we will be holding public hearing in different provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The purpose of these hearings is to hear the voices of ordinary citizens, the youth and learners and encourage them to make submissions the Minister.
KZN PUBLIC HEARING
The first public hearing will be this Saturday, 2 March 2013, in Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal. It will start at 12h00 at the VA Makhoba Community Hall. Learners, teachers, parents and community members from across KwaZulu-Natal will attend the hearing and give testimonies on poor school infrastructure.Out of 5,931 ordinary public schools in KwaZulu-Natal:
- 1,580 schools have no electricity supply and 410 have an unreliable electricity supply,
- 629 schools have no water supply and 1,182 have an unreliable water supply,
- 60 schools have no ablution facilities and 2,834 schools use pit latrines,
- 5,568 schools (94%) do not have a functioning library and 5,611 schools (95%) do not have functioning computer centres.
For the court case against Minister Motshekga last year, EE collected affidavits from schools across the country. Affidavits from schools in KwaZulu-Natal describe the effect of bad school infrastructure on learners. The principal of Maceba High School , Mr Bethwell Mweli, described the impact of leaking roofs on teaching and learning as follows:
“When it rains learning and teaching has to stop in half of our classrooms, because learners, their books and the desks get wet. It rains on up to half of the school days in the year. Learners and teachers also fear that the roof, which has holes in it, could blow off or collapse on them. Many of the wooden ceiling beams are also broken and bent and could easily fall on the learners and teachers.” (Affidavit PDF)
The principal of Ashburton Primary School describes the poor state of the school’s three pit latrine toilets that are used by 133 children has a particularly harsh impact on female students:
“The toilets are smelly and unhygienic. The fact that there are no doors on the toilets also means that you have no privacy. This is degrading and humiliating and grossly violates their dignity. You think twice before using the toilet. You think whether you cannot just wait until you get home, and if you really have to use the toilet, you sometimes go the schools’ neighbours and ask them if you can use their toilet. When the girls and teachers are experiencing menstruation, they do not have the necessary privacy or facilities to take appropriate care of themselves. As a result, some of the girls stay away from school when they are experiencing menstruation, which can mean they are away for up to a week.” (Affidavit PDF)
The schedule for the remaining public hearings is as follows:
Polokwane, Limpopo, Sunday, 10 March, Nirvana Hall, 12h00
King Williams Town, Eastern Cape, Sunday, 10 March, Steve Biko Centre, 12h00
Johannesburg, Gauteng, Thursday, 14 March, Central Methodist Church, 17h00
Cape Town – Wednesday, 20 March, Good Hope Centre (Drommedaris Hall), 15h00
For more information please contact
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747
Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary) on 072 267 8489
Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) on 082 326 5353/ firstname.lastname@example.org