Equal Education Western Cape would like to thank the Western Cape Standing Committee on Education for inviting us to present on the findings of our Schools Social Audit on Safety and Sanitation yesterday. EE learners, parents and staff representatives appreciate deeply the opportunity to be heard by the elected representatives mandated to oversee the work of the Western Cape Education Department and hold its leadership accountable.

 We thank the Committee for its members’ open and rigorous engagement with the findings of our social audit. The general feedback from all the Committee members was positive and constructive. We were encouraged to hear that Committee members have been visiting schools actively, and that the facts we present in our audit  have been visible to them during their time on the ground.

Chairperson Basil Kivedo and several other members of the Committee expressed concern, rightly in our view, that the Western Cape Education MEC has refused to engage Equal Education members and the findings and methodology of our audit adequately and in good faith.

We particularly appreciated the sentiment expressed by Chairperson Kivedo and quoted today in Die Burger newspaper when, affirming the findings of our audit, he said: “The facts are before us.” On Tuesday Mr Kivedo described the meeting with Equal Education as “groundbreaking”, and an important initiative by community members and civil society which the Committee has pledged to follow up on.

We are thus surprised and concerned at the change in Mr Kivedo’s tone in his statement to the media today, in which he described our findings as “generalisation[s] and in fact not true in the Western Cape”. As we stated in the Committee meeting yesterday, we are confident that an audit of 244 schools from all over the province is a powerful sample from which to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of policies and funding models designed to ensure that learners in the Western Cape have access to safe and properly resourced schools. This was certainly the view of the six expert academics who reviewed our audit report and methodology prior to its release.

In our next meeting with the Committee, we will ask the Chairperson to clarify the serious contradictions between his statement today and his statements yesterday during the Committee meeting, which should be a matter of public record. It would be a serious disappointment to us, and of major concern to all in the province if MPLs are in the habit of saying one thing in their capacity as Committee members and another to the media in their capacity as party political spokespeople.

The aim of our social audit is to reflect the lived experienced of our members and that of many other young South Africans who continuously have to deal with the trauma of learning in under-equipped and under-resourced schools that cannot guarantee them a safe and healthy learning environment. Our interest remains the safety and wellbeing of all learners in South Africa and in radically transforming the South African education system.

We look forward to continuing our engagements with the Committee and the WCED. We wait for the Committee to confirm details for the follow-up meeting discussed yesterday. We hope that the Committee’s promise to intervene will materialise despite the fact that the Education MEC Debbie Schafer is a leader in the Democratic Alliance.

Our hope is that more sincere and committed engagement from MEC Schafer, even if it has to come through an intervention from the legislative branch, will ultimately result in the promulgation of new and progressive policies and funding schemes that can bring safe teaching and learning to schools across the Western Cape.

For further comment:

Noncedo Madubedube (EE WC Deputy Head) 079 170 4656

Mase Ramaru (EE WC Deputy Head) 076 666 5614

Nishal Robb (EE WC Head) 079 511 6790

NOTE FOR EDITORS: Key information from the Western Cape Schools Safety and Sanitation Audit Report

Key findings:

  • At 74% of schools that we audited, there was no toilet for learners with disabilities. This was even worse for rural schools, where 86% had no toilet for disabled learners.
  • The WCED says that it will not provide infrastructure upgrades for 266 schools built on private land – these schools won’t receive any new buildings, proper toilets and fences, or libraries and labs. Many of these schools are built from inappropriate and dangerous materials like asbestos
  • Inadequate and unequal access to sanitary pads and bins, where richer schools have far better access than rural and township schools.
  • Many schools have broken toilets because there are too many learners per toilet, and not enough money to hire cleaners.
  •  57% of Western Cape schools don’t meet the WCED minimum of one toilet for every 35 learners and there is no standard ratio of cleaning staff to school population.
  • Less than half (47%) of schools have a full-time security guard.
  • Corporal punishment takes place at 83% of schools in the sample.
  • 4 out of 5 learners report that teachers use sticks, batons, pipes, and other objects to hit them.
  • While 98% of schools were fenced, 42% of schools have holes in their fences.
  • Learners reported incidences of sexual assault at 16% of schools in the sample.

 Demands include:

  • More funding and capacity for the Safe Schools Programme.

  • The WCED, SAPS and other relevant government departments need to coordinate their efforts and work together more closely on the issue of school safety.

  • The WCED needs to audit every school that doesn’t have proper infrastructure for disabled learners and put together a plan to urgently provide this infrastructure.

  • The national government must put together a plan and a budget to provide pads and dignity packs to all learners who need them – these should be compulsory, same as with textbooks and stationery.

  • The Western Cape government shouldn’t build any more bicycle lanes, dog parks or upgrades for rich areas until every school in this province is functioning with proper safety

  • and sanitation infrastructure.

  • The Minister of Police and the SAPS leadership in the province must deal with the issue of inequality in SAPS resource allocation urgently.

  • At 74% of schools that we audited, there was no toilet for learners with disabilities. The WCED needs to audit every school that doesn’t have proper infrastructure for disabled learners and put together a plan to urgently provide this infrastructure:

    • No disabled learner should be excluded from public ordinary schools because of

    • Disabled learners must also be provided for in terms of sports and other activities.
      Learners who have disabilities that require them to be in special schools must have access to those schools.

    • Waiting lists are too long, and thousands of learners are sitting at home
      doing nothing because of this. According to the DBE, more than 600,000 children with
      disabilities are not in school – 58,000 of them are in the Western Cape.

  • Container classes have been in some schools for decades – some schools are made entirely of container classes. The MEC must tell the public if there is or isn’t a plan to replace container classrooms with proper classrooms: – If there isn’t a plan, the WCED must develop one and share it with the public. The plan must tell us how, when and how much it will cost to replace container classrooms with proper classrooms.

Link to the full report, executive summary, and full list of demands: