Wednesday 15 May 2013 was the agreed deadline by which Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was to promulgate into law final and binding regulations providing Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. But on 9 May 2013 the Minister wrote to Equal Education (EE) requesting more time to finalise the regulations [PDF]. After wide consultation by EE amongst our members, EE and its legal representatives the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) have today written to the Minister offering a one-month extension for the promulgation of the Norms and Standards to 15 June 2013 [PDF]. The one-month extension will come into effect only if the Minister, within the next two days, signs an addendum to the original settlement agreement, agreeing to a new deadline of 15 June. Failing this the Minister will be in breach of the original settlement agreement, and EE will renew its application to court.
EE has agreed to the extension for two reasons:
- EE always prefers to avoid litigation if possible, viewing it as a last resort. If the Minister feels the same way she now has a month to ensure that this is not necessary.
- The Minister has committed to drastically improving the draft norms which she published in January. In her 9 May letter to EE, less than a week before the agreed deadline, Minister Motshekga wrote: “…from the comments received, I have discerned that it is undesirable for me to finalise and promulgate the norms and standards in their current form. In the main, stakeholders object to the fact that the norms and standards lack substance and certainty, and that there is no clear framework or plan for implementing the norms and standards.”
EE appreciates this frank admission by the Minister, and takes it in good faith, hoping that an additional month will make for a much improved document. EE is nevertheless deeply disappointed at this further delay, given the long history of delays, while learners and teachers continue to have their rights violated by appalling conditions in schools. EE will not agree to further delays.
There is no reason to delay beyond a month. EE itself collected over 700 submissions on the Minister’s draft norms, all of which we processed, and incorporated into our detailed submissions on the draft norms, before the public comment deadline on 31 March 2013 [PDF]. By 15 June the Minister would have had 11 weeks since the close of the public comment period, clearly enough time to rewrite the Norms and Standards. The Minister has been aware of the 15 May 2013 deadline for a full six months, since entering into the settlement agreement with EE on 17 November 2012 [PDF]. This latest delay is part of a long history of delays, extensions and unfulfilled commitments that have characterised the Minister’s generally half-hearted response to the critical question of basic standards for South Africa’s schools.
Some of these delays include:
- Draft Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure were originally published by Minister Motshekga’s predecessor, Minister Naledi Pandor, in November 2008. The 2008 draft was an impressive document [http://goo.gl/q4TpL] but never promulgated into law.
- In Parliament on 11 September 2009 Minister Motshekga stated: “We have developed norms and standards that commit government to providing school buildings of a particular standard.” [PDF]
- In Parliament on 29 September 2009 Minister Motshekga said the norms and standards were “approved by both the Council for Education Ministers and the Head of Education Committee in 2008” and “are awaiting concurrence of the Minister of Finance”. [PDF]
- On 9 May 2010 the Minister wrote to EE stating that the then-soon-to-be-published National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment (NPEP) would be followed by minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. [PDF]
- On 11 June 2010 the Minister published the finalised NPEP which committed to implementing Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure by 1 April 2011. [PDF]
- On 20 July 2010 the Minister’s Director General, Mr Bobby Soobrayan, wrote to EE stating that “the Minister must develop national minimum norms and standards … by the end of the 2010/2011 financial year” and that the norms and standards “are currently with the DBE Legal Services and will be promulgated as regulations thereafter.” [PDF]
- On 26 November 2010 the Minister claimed in Parliament: “The Department of Basic Education developed the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.” [PDF]
- On 18 April 2011 the Deputy Director General, Mr S G Padayachee, gave a presentation to EE stating: “The draft Norms and standards were approved by CEM and the Minister of Basic Education and received concurrence from Minister of Finance during 2008/09 financial year. The Norms and Standards were then translated into regulations and were presented to the State Law Adviser for comments.” He added that: “Amendments will be effected and the Norms will be presented to HEDCOM and CEM.” [PDF]
- On 25 June 2011, at the People’s Summit for Quality Education in Khayelitsha, the Minister said that Norms and Standards would be released shortly for public comment.
- After all of these promises, not a single one of which was honoured by the Minister, she reversed course entirely and on 10 October 2011 wrote to EE stating that she did not intend to promulgate regulations for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, and would instead adopt “guidelines”.
- It was this which forced EE to resort to the courts to compel the Minister to publish the regulations [PDF]. This did not stop the pattern of delays though. Three separate extensions were necessary before the Minister filed her responding papers, which in the end consisted of a single short affidavit from a Deputy Director General.
- Finally in November 2012, only days before the case was to be heard, the Minister agreed and undertook to publish draft Norms and Standards for comment by 15 December 2012. At her request, we extended the date for the draft norms to be published by a month to 15 January 2013. The date for promulgation of the final legally binding Norms and Standards was agreed as 15 May 2013. [PDF]
Given this record of broken commitments the decision to grant Minister Motshekga a final extension to 15 June 2013 was not easy. In recent days EE has held numerous mass meetings involving over 1000 members, who have expressed their anger and lack of faith in the Minister. Many urged an immediate return to court and mass mobilisation. Nevertheless, the leadership of EE elected by the membership, the organisation’s National Council, met on 15 May and has agreed to this final extension to 15 June 2013, provided the Minister signs an addendum to the original settlement agreement within the next two days.
While Minister Motshekga continuously and unduly delays this matter learners and teachers suffer under conditions which put their health and safety at risk and in which effective education cannot take place. The constitutional rights of vast numbers of learners are breached on a daily basis due to the Minister’s on-going failure to comply with her statutory and constitutional obligations.
EE is planning large marches for 17 June 2013. These will take place across the country. The Minister will decide what these marches are about. If she has published good quality Norms and Standards by 15 June the marches will be a celebration. If she has not the marches will begin a new phase of EE’s campaign which will include a return to court and more intense tactics than EE has used thus far.
For comment please contact
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747/ 021 387 0022
Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary) on 072 267 8489
Bayanda Mazwi (EE Deputy Chairperson) on 079 644 5951
Doron Isaacs (EE Deputy General Secretary) on 082 850 2111
Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) on 082 326 5353
Cameron McConnachie (EE legal representative at the LRC) on 083 387 8738