SCHOOLS SOCIAL AUDIT SUMMIT CONCLUDES WITH MEC LESUFI: “I ACCEPT ALL YOUR DEMANDS UNCONDITIONALLY”.
POWERFUL EVIDENCE OF SANITATION CRISIS PRESENTED FROM 200 SCHOOLS AUDITED. MEC MAKES HUGE, DRAMATIC PROMISES TO OVERHAUL SCHOOLS BY JULY.
Today Equal Education (EE) held a successful Schools Social Audit Summit which was attended by close to a thousand learners, parents and interested members of the Gauteng community. Before the summit, EE together with organisations that were part of the social audit process marched from the Hector Peterson memorial to the YMCA in song to raise awareness about the social audit.
As explained by Sfiso Mollo, an EE organiser who lead the social audit process, “This Summit reviews a social audit of 200 schools in 20 towns and townships in Gauteng. We built a coalition, trained 500 auditors, created an information packet for every school, and created an audit sheet to capture all information. Each audit took two hours. We checked the accuracy by phoning schools to confirm our data, and checking again after capturing it online. We know that our MEC works on facts, so we have the facts.”
The social audit and today’s summit was organised by EE and a coalition of organizations including Bua Funda, Sidinga Uthando, Moral Regenaration Movement, SANCO, Alexandra Civic Organisation, Gauteng Civic Organization, SA Council of Churches.
An international observer panel verified the method and the results of the audit. The panel members were Isabella Matambanadzo an activist and journalist from Zimbabwe, Denis Kalekeni the Secretary General of The Teachers Union of Malawi, Dr Anjum Halai from Aga Khan University in Tanzania, Chekezie Anyanwu from Plan International and Lumkile Mondi an economics lecturer at Wits. Speaking on behalf of the panel, Chekezie Anyanwu said: “The instruments used to gather data were friendly and rigorous. The shift to hard evidence to drive educational reform is significant. The audit confirmed the Ministry’s commitments, which we applaud, but it is one thing to make a promise and another to deliver. MEC, rather than feeling the EE report is an indictment of your work, take it as helping you to monitor and do your work. You should take it more seriously. This is a critical contribution. We are asking you MEC to become a champion of the social audit methodology.”
At the summit the following evidence, gathered through the EE-led social audit, was presented:
- In 30% of the high schools audited, over 100 learners were sharing a single working toilet
- 1 in 5 toilets were either broken or locked
- 70% of schools have no access to soap and 40% have no access to toilet paper or sanitary pads
- Over 25% of schools have more than 400 students for 1 maintenance staff member
The demands were read out by Dimakatso Matele, an equaliser in matric in a school in Daveyton. She started by speaking about her own conditions and saying “I do not remember a time when we had soap or toilet paper. Don’t remember a time when the toilets didn’t stink.” She urged the MEC to Improve maintenance and increase supply by Youth Day 16 June. She further urged the minister to take the following steps:
- Establish a Gauteng-appropriate standard/ratio for sanitation. The World Health Organisation sets a ration of 25 learners to 1 toilet.
- Improve the ratio of maintenance staff per student. School-based maintenance staff is the only solution.
- Provide a model budget for schools. Principals say they don’t have the money to buy supplies, and we believe them. A model budget must show how schools can afford soap, toilet paper, sanitary bins etc. It may show the need to increase funds to schools.
- Publicly begin blacklisting contractors who under-perform.
- Fully fund the GDE request of R350m to maintain school toilets and ring-fence this money.
MEC Lesufi responded by saying: “I accept all your demands unconditionally.” He then made some very bold promises, which we fully intend holding him to. These included:
- The 50 worst schools in Gauteng will be demolished and rebuilt during the June Holidays. He promised to provide a list of these.
- Every Matric classroom in a township in Gauteng will get new ceilings, floors and toilets by July.
- Every chalkboard in Gauteng will be removed and replaced by smart boards by July.
- 21 000 dignity packs will be distributed to female learners monthly from July.
- Every school in Gauteng has been made section 21 meaning they can buy soap and toilet paper without going to the district.
Co-Head of EE in Gauteng Tshepo Motsepe responded by saying: “Today proves that activism can win real results. We know the R150m that we won last year has been invested [as a result of EE’s campaign] and we see the results. But the reality is that there is still no dignity for a black child during 12 years of schooling in this democracy. We can’t allow that to continue. We need to issue an ultimatum: become part of the solution or you are out. We cannot have more deaths like Michael Komape.”
Equaliser Jessica Kubheka, a grade 11 learner from Tembisa, told the crowd: “The sanitation crisis is the biggest crisis in our school. Our toilets are blocked and stink. What causes this? There is no toilet paper. So when you you take whatever you can. What causes the stink? We have no sanitary bins. So we throw them in the toilet. They get stuck and this causes the stink. Urinals don’t have running water so they stink. And all this affects education. There are 2,400 of us in my school, and sometimes only three toilets blocks are open, so we stand in long queues while others are in class.”
EE intends to fully hold the MEC to the promises he made to hundreds of people today. We want the MEC to also meet the deadlines he has set for himself. We think it is commendable that the MEC has always honoured all of our invites and addressed learners when called on to do so. The social audit has proved a powerful tool to bring different communities and organisations together behind a common cause. Thanks to the social audit EE was able to raise awareness around the need for improved school infrastructure in general and sanitation in particular and in tandem get parents, grandparents, civic organisations and different parts of society involved.
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE Spokesperson) 060 503 4933
Tshepo Motsepe (EE Gauteng Co-Head) 071 886 5637
Adam Bradlow (EE Gauteng Co-Head) 072 347 3027