Over the past three weeks, Equal Education (EE) has been engaged in a debate with Premier Helen Zille over the need for minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
EE believes that binding norms and standards for school infrastructure is the best way to ensure that all school have access to water, electricity, properly built classrooms and decent toilets.
Zille does not support binding norms and standards, which she describes as being “unachievable, unaffordable and educationally misdirected.”
In one sense the debate between EE and Zille is academic as the Bhisho High Court has ordered, and Minister Motshekga has consented, that norms and standards for school infrastructure be adopted by 30 November 2013.
But here is the debate:
This is Premier Zille’s original defense of Minister Motshekga. Zille argues that Motshekga has done well as education minister and that she has been blamed unfairly for crises such as the 2012 Limpopo textbook shortages. She argues that provinces, not the Minister, hold real power in South African education. She also argues that the Minister’s years of delay in finalising norms and standards is justified and necessary to avoid unaffordable, unachievable and impractical regulations. Zille bases her argument on norms and standards on a 2008 draft by previous Minister Naledi Pandor.
EE’s Deputy General-Secretary wrote a response to Zille which originally appeared on GroundUp. Isaacs focuses his criticism on Zille’s comments on norms and standards, arguing that Zille is being deliberately misleading by focusing on the 2008 draft, which is no longer on the table and by making norms and standards out to be unrealistic and unaffordable, when they are neither. Isaacs also interrogates the motives for Zille’s support of Motshekga and dismisses her attempt to absolve Motshekga of responsibility for major crises in the education system.
In this press release EE points out and refutes the factual errors and misleading statements Zille makes regarding norms and standards in her defence of Minister Motshekga. EE provides evidence to back up all of its counter-arguments.
Premier Zille, in turn, responds to EE’s comments that her original article was misleading and riddled with errors, in a 10 point statement on norms and standards. Zille maintains her position that norms and standards are unaffordable, won’t be able to be implemented by provinces and that Minister Motshekga’s delay in finalising them is justifiable.
This EE press release responds to all of the points raised by Premier Zille in her previous statement, and agan emphasises the need for minimum norms and standards to win the war on inequality in South African schools.
Premier Zille devotes her weekly DA newsletter to explaining why she backs Minister Motshekga and again, advancing her arguments against norms and standards. This time Zille makes a special effort to show how “impractical” norms and standards are, arguing that they will paralyse the education bureaucracy. For the first time Zille also proposes an alternative to binding norms and standards: school infrastructure “guidelines”.
EE General Secretary Brad Brockman explains why only norms and standards, and not Zille’s suggested “guidelines” will ensure that all schools have access to water, electricity, properly built classrooms and decent toilets. Brockman also addresses once more Zille’s argument that norms and standards are “unachievable, unaffordable and educationally misdirected”.