Yesterday, 31 March 2015, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) released a media statement in response to Equal Education’s (EE) protest action taking place from 1-3 April 2015 in Pretoria, Cape Town and Zwelitsha, King William’s Town.
These protests are to demand that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga immediately release the provincial implementation plans for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. After a year of work these plans were sent to the Minister by provincial education departments in November 2014.
The DBE attack us, saying we “want the plans to be rushed”, but in reality they are dragging their feet.
- In November 2014, more than 4 months ago, the DBE released a statement in which it said, “The Minister will consider the plans before making them public.”
- In late December, in the Daily Dispatch, the DBE said “the Minister will meet with the MEC in January or February to go through the plan before making it public.”
- In early March 2015 the DBE said the “Minister is meeting MECs in the next 10 days.”
- Now, in response to EE’s pressure and planned protests, the DBE says the plans will be released “in a few weeks”.
Meanwhile, Equal Education has written to the Minister several times since December 2014 to request the plans and ask that they be made public. These letters – sent on 9 December 2014, 27 February 2015 and 12 March 2015 – have essentially been ignored. On 19 March 2015, we also submitted an access-to-information (PAIA) request for the plans through the Equal Education Law Centre.
The DBE’s most recent statement, which does not name Equal Education but refers directly to our protests, characterises us as “attention seeking”. It goes on to state, “We (the DBE) certainly welcome being held accountable by organisations in the sector and members of the public but will not accept cheap tricks aimed at derailing our work in an attempt to grab headlines.” Our sustained efforts to correspond with the DBE show that we have tried for months to avoid headlines.
The DBE’s attempt to dismiss and undermine EE and today’s protests, which will see more than 600 students sleeping for two nights outside the Minister’s office, Parliament and the Eastern Cape Education Department, misrepresents our movement and and ignores the facts. To respond to citizens with insults is to undermine democracy.
Section 195 of the Constitution sets standards for public administration. It says: “People's needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making. Public administration must be accountable. Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.”
Progress requires constant struggle. EE waged a three-year campaign which resulted in Minister Motshekga adopting Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure in November 2013. We are totally committed to proper implementation. The campaign for Norms and Standards was won through the efforts of thousands of school-going members of EE who marched, fasted, held vigils, slept outside Parliament, and marched again, and again, and again. They spoke at rallies, sent letters to countless editors, wrote to the Minister, and made the case on videos, radio and TV. The campaign, which was characterised by years of delays and broken promises, was also supported by thousands of ordinary South Africans, including teachers and principals, civil society organisations, and human rights lawyers from the Legal Resources Centre.
Our statement soon after the Norms and Standards were adopted show that we have given the Minister much credit when it is due. And as we said then:
“The Campaign for Norms and Standards has always been about a rational plan for providing decent school infrastructure for all. The Norms and Standards provide a sound, legal basis for this plan, which provincial education departments have to comply with, and which students, parents and organisations can use to hold government accountable for delivery.”
Provincial implementation plans are key to making the Norms and Standards real. Again, we call on the Minister to release them immediately.
Nombulelo Nyathela 060 503 4933 (EE Spokesperson)
Yoliswa Dwane 076 706 2338 (EE Chairperson)
Brad Brockman 072 267 8489 (EE General Secretary)