Today and tomorrow, 24-5 November, all nine education MECs will meet with Minister Angie Motshekga. DBE Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga has said that sanitation and infrastructure are on the agenda. This is significant as it is only five days before 29 November, by when all MECs will have to submit their plans to implement the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure to Minister Motshekga.
Equal Education demands that these plans be made publicly available, so that citizens may see how government intends to ensure compliance with the law, and so that students, parents and teachers may critically engage with the content of these plans.
Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure is a law which establishes what physical infrastructure and services all schools should have, and sets out time-frames for their provision. The Norms and Standards are binding on all provincial education departments, and MECs must report annually to the Minister on their progress in implementing them.
The Norms and Standards were adopted by Minister Motshekga on 29 November 2013. This followed nearly three years of activist campaigning by Equal Education (EE) and legal work by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC). There has already been significant progress in the provision and prioritisation of school infrastructure since then. However, serious challenges remain.
The Norms and Standards state that within three years (by 29 November 2016) all schools without any access to water, electricity and sanitation, and all schools made entirely of mud, wood, metal and asbestos, must be addressed. According to the DBE’s 2014 National Education Infrastructure Management Systems (NEIMS) Report, there are currently:
604 schools without any access to water
1,131 without any access to electricity
474 without any access to sanitation
There are an additional 4 681 schools with an unreliable water supply, and 2 773 schools with an unreliably electricity supply. These schools are slated to be dealt with within 7 years under the Norms and Standards. Moreover, there are still 11 033 schools with pit latrines, although the Norms and Standards state clearly: “Pit latrines and bucket toilets are not allowed at schools.”
The implementation plans which MECs will submit to Minister Motshekga by 29 November ought to be made public. It is in the public’s interest to know how provinces intend to ensure compliance with the Norms and Standards. Moreover, by publicising the plans, students, parents and teachers will be able to scrutinise and engage with the plans, and possibly draw attention to mistakes.
Of serious concern to Equal Education is the accuracy of the information on school infrastructure backlogs which provincial education departments are using to formulate their plans. In June, after EE submitted an access-to-information (PAIA) request, the DBE sent us information on the backlogs in the provinces. There are major differences between this information and the recently released NEIMS Report.
According to the information received under PAIA, in the Eastern Cape there are 260 schools without electricity, 90 without water and 66 without sanitation. According to the latest NEIMS Report, in the Eastern Cape there are 377 schools without electricity, 399 without water and 366 without sanitation. Without accurate information, provincial education department will not be able to plan properly, and many schools run the risk of not being identified for the provision of water, electricity and sanitation.
Equal Education therefore calls on provincial education departments to place their implementation plans on their websites, as well as to send them to all schools in their provinces. Schools, as well as students and parents, should be able to inform the relevant department if their schools has been mistakenly left off the plan. The DBE should also public all province’s implementation plans on their website.
FOR COMMENT CONTACT:
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE spokesperson) 076 900 1029
Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary) 072 267 8489