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Second day of Eastern Cape Schools Solidarity Visit: delegates find 135 learners in one classroom and structurally unsound mud classrooms

Yesterday, 25 April 2013, a group of eminent South Africans, led by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, visited 4 schools in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape Schools Solidarity Visit is being held to draw attention to the school infrastructure crisis in the Eastern Cape and to call on Minister Motshekga to publish quality Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.

Eastern Cape Schools Solidarity Visit

The Solidarity Visit is being held in the lead up to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga publishing Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.  Equal Education (EE) campaigned for two years and instigated legal action against Minister Motshekga before she agreed to set the regulations, due to be published on or before 15 May 2013.

The delegates on the Solidarity Visit include: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Elinor Sisulu, Janet Love, Sindiwe Magona, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Lindiwe Mokate, Zakes Mda, Graeme Bloch and Professor Pierre de Vos. They were accompanied by a group of EE staff, education scholars Nic Spaull (University of Stellenbosch) and Kim Porteus (Nelson Mandela Institute) and education lawyer Cameron McConnachie (Legal Resources Centre).

Ntapane Senior Secondary School

Ntapane Senior Secondary School (SSS) has 836 learners from Grade R – 9. They are in desperate need of more classrooms to reduce their overcrowding. Delegates visited a Grade 9 class with 135 learners in it. The school does not have adequate sanitation facilities and only has one tap.

Professor Njabulo Ndebele, a writer and academic, shared his thoughts after viewing the overcrowded classroom: “I walked into this class and found a lot of attentive young people who seemed engaged with their studies. They viewed us with a great deal of interest. In other words, I got the sense that the school children loved being there to learn. But I also couldn’t miss the fact that there was a great deal of overcrowding. In other words, the spaces between the desks – you can’t even go through. Contact between the teacher and the student, particularly those that are right in the back of the class, is almost impossible. The teacher can’t move around because the kids are bunched up together. The sense of overcrowding is palpable.”

Ngangelizwe High School

Nyagilizwe is a school inside Mthatha. The school’s main problem is its toilet facilities which are in a state of disrepair. There is no toilet paper and there are no hand basins. Many of the pit latrines don’t have doors. The school has replaced some of the missing doors with plastic sheeting. Learners take turns holding the plastic sheeting closed for each other when they go to the toilet.

Zakes Mda commented on sanitation facilities after visiting the toilet block: “These toilets are disgusting. No human being should use them, let alone a child. It’s a very unhealthy situation. You can see even after using these toilets there is no place where they can wash their hands. It’s quite shocking. It’s something that makes me very angry.”

Samson Senior Primary School

Samson SPS is a school in the Libode Education District, which is 40kms outside of Mthatha. There are 230 learners and 5 teachers, including the principal. The school submitted a supporting affidavit towards the EE court case for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure in 2012 [PDF]. The delegates discovered that the school does not have access to water as the water tanks were damaged by a storm. If learners want water they have to walk 5 kilometres to the nearest tap.

While being shown around the school the principal explained to the delegates that two of the original mud classrooms had collapsed. Teaching now takes place in the remaining two mud classrooms, the local church and community members’ homes. The mud classrooms are not structurally sound. In winter they are bitterly cold and in summer they are unbearably hot. Because the classrooms are spread over a large distance it is difficult for the principal to manage the school. After visiting the school Elinor Sisulu (writer, human rights activist and political analyst) remarked: “I can’t understand how the education department can justify this.”

Nomandla Senior Primary School

The last school the delegates visit was Nomandla Senior Primary School. It has recently been rebuilt however it has not been handed over to the community. Delegates found learners still attending classes in temporary structures.

Evening of Reflection

The Solidarity Visit will conclude tonight, Friday 26 April, with an Evening of Reflection at the Book Lounge in Roeland Street, Cape Town. It is scheduled for 6:30pm. Zakes Mda, Sindiwe Mangona and Professor Njabulo Ndebele will speak about their experiences, thoughts and impressions of the solidarity visit.

For more information please contact

Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747/ 021 387 0022

Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary): 072 267 8489

Julian Kesler (Solidarity Visit Organiser): 082 908 6949

Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer):  082 326 5353/kate@equaleducation.org.za

(Picture by Sydelle Willow Smith)

Carla GoldsteinSecond day of Eastern Cape Schools Solidarity Visit: delegates find 135 learners in one classroom and structurally unsound mud classrooms