16 July 2018
Equal Education media alert: Judgment tomorrow in #FixTheNorms court case
Tomorrow, Tuesday 17 July at 9:30am, judgment will be handed down in Equal Education’s #FixTheNorms case, brought against the Minister of Basic Education.
Our case, heard in March this year, seeks to ensure that government properly commit to meeting its own school infrastructure targets – targets needed to fulfill the rights to dignity, equality, education and the best interests of the child.
If the Bhisho High Court agrees with Equal Education, it will mean that the country’s law on school infrastructure will be tightened, and there will not be any excuse for any failure by the nine provinces to comply with the deadlines which the law sets for providing essential infrastructure at schools.
Equal Education chose to have this case heard in the Bisho High Court, rather than anywhere else in South Africa, because the Eastern Cape is the province with the worst infrastructure backlog.
The school infrastructure law (the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure) was passed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on 29 November 2013. For three years, EE members marched, picketed, petitioned, fasted, and went door-to-door in communities, in order for Minister Motshekga to do so. For the first time, South Africa had a law which gave effect to the Constitutional rights to dignity, equality and education, and said that a school must have decent toilets, electricity, water, fencing, classroom numbers, libraries, laboratories and sports fields.
But loopholes in the law have made it possible for government to avoid fixing schools, and have hindered the ability of schools and communities to assert their right to dignified and safe learning spaces, that are conducive to quality teaching and learning.
Click here to read the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.
After years of efforts to engage directly with Minister Motshekga on the problems in the law, Equal Education, represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), approached the court.
Proceedings in the Bhisho High Court in March 2018
We were in court on 14 and 15 March this year. Advocate Geoff Budlender, Senior Counsel, argued on behalf of Equal Education that the wording of the school infrastructure law meant that learners should expect “some unspecified person” to fix their school “at some unspecified time”. Our submissions to the court were that the right to basic education is uniquely framed in the Constitution, and is immediately realisable. That the infrastructure law allows the State to escape the duty to actually fix schools, constitutes an unjustified limitation on the right, and ought to be corrected by the court.
In contrast, the State’s counsel argued that while the right to basic education is immediately realisable, its components, such as safe and adequate infrastructure, are not.
Basic Education For All (BEFA), represented by Section27, joined the case as a friend of the court (amicus curiae).
During the trial EE learner members (Equalisers) and EE post-school youth members picketed outside the court, and were joined in solidarity by the family of the late Michael Komape, who died at 5-years-old after falling into a dilapidated pit latrine at his school in rural Limpopo.
Tragically, at the close of the hearing on 15 March 2018, we were informed of the death of Eastern Cape learner Lumka Mkhethwa who, like Michael Komape, had fallen into a pit latrine at her school, and passed away at 5-years-old.
Click here for our previous statement, outlining precisely what we asked of the court. Click here to watch our animated explainer video of why we demanded that Minister Motshekga must #FixTheNorms, and click here to watch EE members speak on the importance of the #FixOurSchools campaign and the court case.
For media queries:
Equal Education, and the Equal Education Law Centre, will analyse the judgment once it is handed down, and expect to be able to provide further media comment tomorrow afternoon.
Luzuko Sidimba (Co-Head Equal Education Eastern Cape)
Daniel Linde (Equal Education Law Centre)
[Unavailable between 5pm and 7pm on Monday 16 July]
Leanne Jansen-Thomas (Equal Education Head of Communications)