CLOCK TICKING: Equal Education members picket outside the office of the premier in Bhisho on Monday, demanding that the November 29 deadline for implementation of the norms and standards for school infrastructure is met and the gaps in the wording of the law addressed Picture: SUPPLIED
Protesters demand premier gets schools fixed by Nov deadline
EQUAL Education (EE) picketed outside the premier’s office on Monday, demanding that the November 29 deadline for norms and standards for School Infrastructure be met and defects in the regulations fixed.
A small group of high school pupils and EE members gathered outside the premier’s office with a memorandum, which was received by chief of staff Nandi Sikutshwa, who promised to hand it to the premier.
Eastern Cape EE head Luzuko Sidimba said: “We have marched to the department of education in Zwelitsha and the legislature over the last few months so it made sense to go to the premier this time.
“We hope the premier will hold the MEC and officials in the department to account.”
EE in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape also picketed at the same time, demanding a response from various departments.
EE are demanding that the regulations relating to the norms and standards for school infrastructure, which they relentlessly campaigned for, be implemented.
“According to the first deadline in the norms and standards, the state must ensure that by November 29 this year there are no longer any schools built from mud, zinc, asbestos or other inappropriate structures, and all schools have some access to water, electricity and sanitation,” Sidimba said.
When the plans for implementation of these norms and standards were eventually released by Minister Angie Motshekga, more than halfway through the first timeframe, many provinces said they were not planning to comply with the first deadline in the law, citing lack of resources, gaps in knowledge on the status of school infrastructure backlogs, and other efficiency gaps.
EE’s memorandum also drew attention to gaps in the wording of the law, which allows for the department to escape the duty of ensuring schools are fixed.
“After numerous appeals to the minister to address the problems in question, we are asking the court to ensure that the gaps in the wording of the norms and standards are fixed,” reads the memorandum.
According to EE, the law has an “escape clause”, allowing the department to use it as an excuse for non-delivery and allowing for indefinite shifting of the delivery deadlines.
“This is an unacceptable limitation on the right to education, and it contravenes the settlement agreement EE reached with the minister in 2013, which was made an order of court,” the memorandum states.
The law also allows the department to only be held accountable for failing to fix schools that are not built entirely out of inappropriate structures.
For example, they could avoid fixing a school that is made of mostly metal, but with one classroom that is built with bricks.
The law also curbs the obligation for the department to report their progress to the public and only requires that MECs report their provincial progress to the minister.
“This means that nobody can be held fully accountable for the work of meeting the norms and standards deadlines, because the public is kept in the dark,” the memorandum states.
Department of Basic Education Eastern Cape statistics for last year state that 261 schools are without water, 94 without sanitation, 318 without electricity and 2044 have pit latrines.
Sidimba said there were still many schools that were built out of inappropriate structures such as mud and could collapse at any time, which were unlikely to be replaced before the November 29 deadline.