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Equal Education, with LRC support, secures a victory in the campaign for school infrastructure

Minister Motshekga has agreed to promulgate Minimum Norms & Standards for School Infrastructure, thus settling the case brought by Equal Education, represented by the Legal Resources Centre

Equal Education (EE), represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), has secured a crucial victory in the campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. In an out of court settlement, recorded by the Court, concluded in person between EE leadership and legal team and Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in Pretoria on Friday, Minister Motshekga has agreed to promulgate regulations to create binding Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. According to the settlement the Norms & Standards will be published for public comment by 15 January 2013, and finalised by 15 May 2013.

The Norms and Standards are a regulation that the Minister is empowered to make by Section 5A of the SA Schools Act, which states:

(2) The norms and standards … must provide for, but not be limited to, the following:

(a) in respect of school infrastructure, the availability of –

(i) classrooms;

(ii) electricity;

(iii) water;

(iv) sanitation;

(v) a library;

(vi) laboratories for science, technology, mathematics and life sciences;

(vii) sport and recreational facilities;

(viii) electronic connectivity at a school; and

(ix) perimeter security.”

The regulations will require every school in South Africa to meet a minimum, but acceptable, level of school infrastructure which is conducive to learning and teaching.

Equal Education welcomes Minister Motshekga’s decision to take this step. Already prior to her decision all nine provincial education MECs and the Minister of Finance chose not to oppose the court case.

Yoliswa Dwane, chairperson of EE, says:

We are happy to share this achievement with the Minister because she has now agreed to do the right thing. We will be holding a huge celebration in Khayelitsha, and also in Tembisa, Thohoyandou, Bhisho, and everywhere that EE is active. This is a victory, first and foremost, for the members of Equal Education who have marched, fasted, slept outside Parliament, and studied long and hard to understand the issues. It is also a victory for our legal team, of which the anchor has been Cameron McConnachie of the Legal Resources Centre.

As soon as the celebration ends the work will begin again. We will now intensify our efforts, double our activism and triple the pressure. Vigilance is necessary to ensure that the Minister now passes very serious Norms and Standards, and not a substandard document. And beyond that we will need to ensure that implementation happens countrywide, which won’t happen without mobilised communities.”

Brad Brockman, the General Secretary of Equal Education adds:

These norms and standards take an abstract right to basic education and make it concrete, at least as far as infrastructure is concerned. Citizens will be able to appreciate that they are entitled to water and electricity in their schools, and soon thereafter to libraries and computer centres. The Norms and Standards will be a tool to build that understanding, which people must act upon to ensure actual delivery from districts and provinces. This will actually assist the national government significantly.

This is necessary and urgent because of the 24 793 public schools in South Africa 93% have no libraries, 95% have no science laboratories, 2 402 schools have no water supply, 46% still use pit latrine toilets and 913 schools have no toilets facilities [source]. Unequal access to quality school infrastructure is a core aspect of inequality in South African education. The promulgation of Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure is a first step in addressing this. It is a victory for learners, parents and communities across the country.”

Cameron McConnachie, the attorney at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Grahamstown which represented EE in the case, adds:

“The case, which has now been settled, was set to be heard in the Bhisho High Court on Tuesday, 20 November 2012. The court papers were incredibly thorough, and we believe they made an unanswerable case. It is likely the strength of facts and arguments contained in our court papers that persuaded the Minister to move forward with norms and standards.”

The valuable Sunday Times and City Press reports on this matter omitted the important role played by the LRC. This was however emphasised to these newspapers by EE. The victory would not have been possible without the legal work done by McConnachie and others at the LRC, with Advs Geoff Budlender SC and Jason Brickhill.

The Equal Education Law Centre also played a crucial supporting role, and will continue to do so.

We would like to thank everyone who has marched, fasted, picketed, written letters, donated money and contributed in some way to the campaign. The fact that hundreds of supporters were set to arrive in Bhisho for a peaceful five-day protest camp outside the Court was surely weighing on the Minister’s mind. We would also like to thank partner organisations.

The promulgation of Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure is not the end of EE’s campaign. EE, with ongoing support from the LRC, will work with communities to ensure that the Minimum Norms and Standards that are finally adopted are acceptable. We will continue our work to secure tangible change on the ground and in schools.

For comment please contact:

Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson) on 072 342 7747 or 021 387 0022 (during office hours)

Brad Brockman (EE General Secretary) on 072 267 8489

Doron Isaacs (EE Deputy General Secretary) on 082 502 1111

Kate Wilkinson (EE Media Officer) on 082 326 5353

Cameron McConnachie (Attorney at LRC Grahamstown) on 083 387 8738

Carla GoldsteinEqual Education, with LRC support, secures a victory in the campaign for school infrastructure