Yesterday the Department of Education (DBE) issued an attack on Equal Education (EE), in the name of Minister Angie Motshekga, which was both racist and dishonest. We have dealt with the racism in our previous statement. In this press release we deal with the dishonesty. We will take each claim made by the DBE and show that it is false.
1. DBE claims that EE seeks to “impose deadlines that would be impossible to meet”.
Facts: All the deadlines EE asks the DBE to uphold were agreed to by the Minister in a November 2012 settlement agreement which was noted by the High Court. The timeline in the settlement was the one proposed by the Minister’s legal team. The timeline required the Minister to consult the public and promulgate final and binding Norms and Standards by 15 May 2013. In other words the settlement laid out a six month timeline between November 2012 and May 2013. On 9 May the Minister requested an extension of unspecified time. EE granted a one month extension. Now the Minister requests “at least” another six months. EE cannot agree to this.
It is important to note that this is occurring in the context of more than 20 unfulfilled promises made by the Minister, the Director General and the DBE over a four year period. For a full rebuttal of the DBE’s claims around the need for another six months see this affidavit.
2. DBE claims: “The compulsory consultation process with NEDLAC has not been concluded, and … the Department awaits the final report. Once this has been submitted, the Minister must, by law, consider all recommendations of the report… this cannot be achieved at Equal Education’s request to flout the law.”
Facts: EE has a copy of a letter which Nedlac wrote to the DBE saying … “We are cognisant of the Settlement Agreement between the DBE and Equal Education which requires the promulgation of the regulations before the 15th of May 2013. It is not the intention of NEDLAC constituents to delay the promulgation of the Norms and Standards.” Moreover there is nothing “compulsory” about the Nedlac process. It is the DBE that is clearly flouting the law.
3. DBE claims that its actions “opens up more avenues for the public to take part in the development and redrafting of the norms” and that EE seeks to “undermine the public participation processes of government…” and that the law “requires all involved and interested in education to have ample time to make input to the final Regulations”.
Facts: As agreed in the Nov 2012 settlement there was a public comment period between 15 January 2013 and 31 March 2013. The DBE made no effort to engage the public during this period. It simply received written comments. EE, on the other hand, held five separate public hearings around the country and collected over 700 submissions which it summarised before submitting one combined submission to the DBE. This we, a small organisation, managed in 6 weeks. Now the DBE insist they need six months to review the 35 comments they have received.
It is important to note that the public comment period from January to March 2013 was the second such public comment period, as there already was one in early 2009 after the first draft Norms and Standards were published in November 2008. What the DBE is essentially insisting upon is that a third period of public comment should take place, and only because the draft they released in January was so poor that it will require substantial redrafting. What is now needed is a finalisation and promulgation of binding Norms and Standards. If the final Norms and Standards fall short of the Constitution or the law then EE or any other organisation will be able to challenge them.
4. DBE claims: “The current government boasts of having delivered thousands of state-of-the-art schools for African children, and the Department of Basic education continues to acknowledge that more still needs to be done.” And that: “As from July, the DBE will open one school per week in the Eastern Cape, in addition to brand new schools we have handed over to communities in Mthatha in the past 3 months.”
Facts: In Parliament on 4 June the Director General Bobby Soobrayan reported that only 55% of South African schools comply with a “very basic level of school infrastructure”. On the same day the Department reported that of the R2bn annual Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Indirect Grant only 37.5% was spent in the year. The DBE’s Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) program promised to have built 100 new schools by March 2013, and yet the latest report to Parliament shows that only 17 have been built. EE celebrates each new school the DBE opens, and even took a recent delegation of high profile South Africans to see one of these new schools. But the problem is being addressed too slowly, and one of the reasons is that there are no binding Norms and Standards.
5. DBE claims that EE is a “stakeholder … that sits in regular consultative meetings with the Department”.
Facts: EE has been granted two meetings with the Minister since she came into office. Once was in 2010, which was a very positive meeting in Cape Town. The second was in November 2012 when the settlement was agreed. In addition EE met once with the Director General in 2010. EE has written more than a dozen letters asking for meetings. EE would welcome more regular meetings.
6. DBE claims that EE organised an “ingenuous march involving school children” and that EE is “a group of white adults organizing black African children”
Facts: We have already responded to this in our previous statement. The National Council of EE, which was democratically elected by its members, mostly ‘school children’, can be viewed on our website.
For general comment on the DBE’s statement:
Nokubonga Yawa, EE spokesperson on 082 833 8389
For comment on the legal process:
Doron Isaacs, EE Deputy General Secretary on 0828502111