Equal Education Press Release – 25 July 2013
Response to Premier Helen Zille’s support for Minister Angie Motshekga, as well as the premier’s critique of Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure: Zille’s Statement is misleading and riddled with errors
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has written a well-publicised defence of Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. In this press statement, we will respond only to aspects of Zille’s article which relate to Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. (EE’s Deputy General Secretary, Doron Isaacs, has dealt with wider aspects of Zille’s article in a previous op-ed.)
FACTUAL ERRORS IN ZILLE’S ARTICLE
1. Zille says “the Treasury would not fund” Minister Naledi Pandor’s comprehensive 2008 draft norms and standards.
However the DBE has itself contradicted this on at least three occasions. In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on 13 October 2010, the Director General, Bobby Soobrayan, stated: “The Minister of Finance concurred on the Policy on Infrastructure as well as the Norms & Standards for School Infrastructure.”
In addition, the Department of Education’s 2009/2010 Annual Report stated on page 24: “The Minister of Finance concurred on the Policy on Infrastructure, as well as on the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.” (See also page 175 of the Annual Report.)
Lastly, 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 the CEM and the Minister of Basic Education and received concurrence from the Minister of Finance during the 2008/2009 financial year.”
2. Zille says the norms and standards for school infrastructure have required “tortuous public-participation processes”.
This statement bears no relation to reality. After publishing a draft in January 2013 the Department conducted absolutely no public participation whatsoever. The only body that involved the public was Equal Education which held public hearings in five provinces and collected 700 submissions which were distilled into two.
3. Zille says the “tortuous public-participation processes” was “required by law”.
The only legal requirements were to get concurrence from the Minister of Finance (who, contrary to what Zille claims, concurred even with the comprehensive 2008 draft) and to consult with the MECs for education, although their agreement is not required.
4. Zille says Motshekga “erred” in “believing that it would be possible to cut through the red-tape jungle by June 15. So, she should not have supported an unrealistic deadline, and in particular, she should not have agreed to it becoming an order of court.”
Firstly, the deadline as per the November 2012 settlement agreement between EE and the Minister was 15 May 2013 and not 15 June 2013. The June 15 date arose only when EE granted Motshekga an extension.
Secondly, the deadline was not unrealistic. Motshekga had 11 weeks from the submission closing date until the June 15 deadline, but she made no effort to use the public’s input to fix and finalise the norms and standards.
Thirdly, at that point there was no order of court. EE was relying on Motshekga’s agreement. An order of court was only granted on 11 July 2013.
5. Zille says “most provinces cannot even spend their current infrastructure budgets”.
Firstly, it is not true that most provinces cannot even spend their current infrastructure budgets.
Each province is allocated and controls what is known as an Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG). The main purpose of the EIG is to allow provinces to maintain and upgrade existing school buildings. According to the Fourth Quarterly Report on the Performance of the Department in Meeting its Strategic Objectives for 2012/2013, provinces spent an average of 96% of their Education Infrastructure Grants, with the lowest-spending province being the Northern Cape at 76%, and the highest spender being Gauteng at 104%. It is therefore obvious that provinces did spend the money of which they had control.
However, provincial governments still lack the capacity to build schools and South Africa is still facing massive backlogs in the building of school infrastructure. This is seen clearly in the National Education Infrastructure Management System Reports of May 2011.
The 2011 NEIMS reports show that at the time, of South Africa’s 24 793 public ordinary schools,
-3 544 (14%) did not have electricity
-11 450 (46%) used pit latrines
-2 402 (10%) of schools had no water supply
-21 021 (85%) were without science laboratories
-19 037 (77%) were without computer centres
-19 451 (79%) were without libraries
The Western Cape is not immune to infrastructure backlogs. According to the 2011 NEIMS reports, 47% of the Western Cape’s 1 464 public ordinary schools were without a library, 65% were without science laboratories, and 39% were without computer centres. Although the NEIMS reports state that 1 391 of Western Cape public schools have municipal flush toilets, a recent report in the Cape Times Newspaper on sanitation at 14 schools in Khayelitsha suggests that this NEIMS statistic does not paint an accurate picture of the true state of sanitation in some schools. The Cape Times reported in May this year that “there were 299 working toilets for 12 074 pupils at the 14 schools – one toilet for every 509 girls and one toilet (including urinals) for every 1 081 boys. According to a city report, there should be 29 pupils per toilet while the World Health Organisation has recommended that there should be 30 pupils per toilet.”
Secondly, Zille does not mention that, when the national DBE has direct responsibility to spend money, it also battles to do so.
Let’s look at the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI), a programme that is funded from the Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Grant. The Backlogs Grant is controlled by the national DBE. In the 2011/2012 financial year, only R76 million of the allocated R700 million ASIDI budget was spent by the National Department. At the end of the 2012/2013 financial year, the Department had only spent 37.5% of the R2 billion allocated to the Schools Infrastructure Backlogs Grant. This is according to the Fourth Quarterly Report on the Performance of the Department in Meeting its Strategic Objectives for 2012/2013 (see slide 115).
Treasury’s Medium Term Budget Statement of October 2012 stated that, “As a result of slow spending on the schools infrastructure backlogs grant, R7.2 billion has been taken away from this programme over the medium term. These funds will be used to increase the education infrastructure grant to provinces and the community library grant, and to support the construction of new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.”
MISLEADING ASPECTS OF ZILLE’S ARTICLE
6. Zille says: “Motshekga recognised that the idealistic norms and standards for “state-of-the-art” infrastructure could not possibly be achieved in the real world.” Zille seems here to be referring to Minister Naledi Pandor’s 2008 draft.
It is strange that Zille reaches back to the 2008 draft. Firstly, Motshekga herself published a new draft in 2009 and then another in 2012 (See http://equalizermagazine.
Secondly, although EE has cited the 2008 draft as an example to learn from, we have always acknowledged that the Minister must determine the content of the norms and standards in compliance with the SA Schools Act and the Constitution. Zille might hark back to the 2008 draft to make her claim that norms and standards are somehow about “state-of-the-art” infrastructure which can’t be achieved “in the real world”. However this is also strange because EE has all along stressed that the main target for norms and standards are the 3544 schools that do not have electricity, the 2402 schools that have no water supply, the 913 that have no toilets and the 2703 that lack fencing. We have also stressed the need for libraries, laboratories and computer centres. These are standard in all adequately resourced schools. As Zille knows, the full title of the norms and standards is minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
7. Zille suggests more than once that norms and standards may be “unachievable”, “unaffordable” and “impractical”.
These claims are undermined by the concurrence given by the Minister of Finance, as well as the support for norms and standards in the National Development Plan, and from the Auditor General and Fiscal & Finance Commission.
Yoliswa Dwane – EE Chairperson – 021 387 0022
Heidi Swart – 082 253 1182
Brad Brockman – EE General Secretary – 072 267 4889