In Cape Town and Pretoria thousands of Equal Education (EE) members marched for safe and well-resourced schools. They demanded that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga immediately publish quality Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards). Minister Motshekga has delayed publishing the regulations since she became minister in 2009.
Yesterday marches were held in Johannesburg and Durban. Today in Cape Town 2500 learners marched to Parliament. They delivered a memorandum to Department of Basic Education representative Randall Van Den Heever. The marchers were addressed by Bayanda Mazwi, EE’s Deputy Chairperson; Doron Isaacs, EE’s Deputy General Secretary and Andiswa Kolanisi, a parent organiser. Marlene van Niekerk gave permission for her poem ‘Motshekga’s name is mud’ to be read at the march in English and isiXhosa.
In Pretoria 1500 learners marched to the Department of Basic Education. Speakers at the march included Professor Peliwe Lolwana; Komani Mawele, regional Chairperson of the Numsa Youth Forum; Godfrey Phiri, member of Amnesty International; Tom Ditchfield, Mayor of the Johannesburg Junior Council and Putas Tseke, Chairperson of Cosatu Gauteng. A memorandum was received by Paseka Njobe, a representative from the Director General’s Office.
According to the South African government’s 2011 National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) report, out of 24 793 public ordinary schools:
- 3 544 schools have no electricity
- 401 schools lack a water supply and 2 611 have an unreliable one
- 913 do not have ablution facilities and 11 450 are using pit latrine toilets
- Only 8% have stocked school libraries
- Only 5% have stocked laboratory facilities
- Only 10% of schools have stocked computer centres
Section 5A of the South African Schools Act gives Minister Motshekga the power to set national standards for school infrastructure. These regulations would ensure that all South African learners are able to access safe and well-resourced schools. Last year, after a two year campaign, EE took Minister Motshekga to court to force her to publish the regulations. She offered to settle the matter out of court and publish Norms and Standards by 15 May 2013. She failed to meet her own deadline and is currently in breach of the settlement agreement. EE has renewed its court case and the matter will be heard on 11 July.
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. Minister Motshekga has broken 20 promises to EE during its campaign.