Equal Education (EE) members in the Eastern Cape will tomorrow file legal papers in the Bisho High Court. This legal challenge is aimed at ensuring that the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, makes certain changes to the regulations concerning the minimum Norms and Standards for school infrastructure.
For three years (beginning in 2011) EE battled with the Minister to ensure that she set out in law the minimum infrastructure standards that all schools in the country must have. These include libraries and laboratories. In late 2013 she finally did so, after enormous pressure from EE members. The regulations, however, have some serious defects. EE has, for more than two years, engaged with the Minister in an attempt to see her fix these flaws. The changes to the regulations are desperately needed to ensure that all schools are protected and that the infrastructure norms are successfully implemented within certain deadlines. The regulations unacceptably exclude a large number of schools.
The struggle to #FixOurSchools has in the past seen the Ministry of Basic Education not being forthcoming with the Norms and Standards plans, that are intended to see the eradication of unsafe classrooms, the delivery of safe and decent sanitation facilities, and moreover, the relief that ought to be provided to thousands of learners across the country who continue to learn under trees and alongside livestock. These plans, produced by each of the Basic Education MECs, detail the backlogs in school infrastructure in each province and how the provinces intend fixing schools in line with the Norms. Plans were to be delivered to the Minister in November 2014. However, the eventual release of those plans were delayed substantially. Making these plans timeously available is essential. Schools, learners and communities should have an opportunity to hold government accountable to its planning. EE asks the court to order the Minister to change the regulations so that she is obliged to release all reports received within a reasonable period.
The decision to approach the court was not easily made, but in the absence of a listening Ministry of Basic Education we are left with no other option. Our correspondence to the Ministry has been met with deafening silence. The November 2016 Norms and Standards deadline is looming. All schools lacking water and electricity must be helped before then. Department of Basic Education (DBE) 2015 statistics put these at 452 and 913 respectively. DBE figures also indicate 128 schools have no sanitation facilities. These schools must also receive these facilities by this deadline.
DBE figures paint a grim picture, with 4 773 schools having an unreliable water supply and 2 854 an unreliable electricity supply. Concerningly, 10 419 schools continue to suffer with pit latrines (about 45%) despite the use of these “toilets” having proved deathly dangerous. However, it is likely that the 2016 deadline and all other deadlines will not be properly realised, as long as the Minister continues to shield the department and herself from the responsibility to fulfill the norms. EE asks that the court order the Minister to tighten the regulations to exclude any legal loopholes that would allow the DBE off the hook for compliance.
The failure to #FixOurSchools will not be delayed any longer!
The details of our press conference are as follows:
Date: 19 May 2016 (Thursday)
Location: Qonce High School
For further comment:
Ntuthuzo Ndzomo (Deputy General Head of EE) 072 931 4343
Luya Sidimba (Head of EE Eastern Cape) 071 924 0956
Lisa Draga (Attorney, EE Law Centre) 072 650 0214