Within the next week Equal Education (EE) will resubmit papers in the Bhisho High Court against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. This follows Minister Motshekga breaching a settlement agreement in which she agreed to publish Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards) by 15 May 2013. Paragraph four of the settlement agreement, which the Minister is now in breach of, provides that “should there be non-compliance with any of the terms of the undertaking; any of the applicants may approach the High Court on an expedited basis for appropriate relief” [PDF].
EE’s renewed litigation will be accompanied by marches in Pretoria and Cape Town on 17 June, and a picket in Bhisho on 18 June.
Last year EE initiated legal action against Minister Motshekga after a two-year campaign for safe and well-resourced classrooms. Minister Motshekga offered to settle the matter out of court and agreed to publish Norms and Standards by 15 May 2013. One week before this deadline she wrote to EE requesting an extension [PDF]. EE reluctantly agreed to offer Minister Motshekga a one-month extension after consulting with its members [PDF]. On 17 May 2013 Minister Motshekga wrote to EE saying “six (6) months would be a more realistic timeframe” [PDF]. This request 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]
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC), acting on behalf of EE, has written to Minister Motshekga to inform her of the decision to return to court [PDF]. Were the Minister to promulgate high quality, legally binding norms and standards by 15 June 2013, or at any time before this matter returns to court, EE would likely suspend its legal proceedings.
EE is planning mass mobilisation on 17 June 2013. In Cape Town learners will march to Parliament and in Pretoria learners will march to the Department of Basic Education. The following day, 18 June, EE will hold a picket in Bhisho. If Minister Motshekga publishes good quality Norms and Standards by 15 June then the marches will be a celebration. If she does not then they will signify a new phase of EE’s campaign which will include intensified tactics.
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 [VIDEO]. 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.
For more information please contact
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747/ 021 387 0022
Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary) on 072 267 8489
Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) on 082 326 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cameron McConnachie (EE legal representative at the LRC) on 083 387 8738