Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education could find itself in a web of legal battles for failing to provide basic amenities to schools after years of promises and squabbles.
Tuesday was the deadline for the department to conform to the norms and standards for school infrastructure provision. On the same day, the department made reports detailing the progress on the delivery of school infrastructure available.
Lobby group Equal Education yesterday staged a protest outside Minister Angie Motshekgaâ€™s offices in Pretoria, citing the department's failure to meet its own deadline.
General secretary Tshepo Motsepe said the government's efforts to mitigate the situation were a result of the pressure the lobby group had applied.
“The point should also be made that many of these schools would never have been built were it not for our five-year campaign on school infrastructure.
“The Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure was won through a struggle by pupils, teachers, parents and activists, he said.
“And when Motshekga failed to budge, the battle went to court. These norms and standards have pushed the government to take infrastructure seriously.”
The norms and standards were legally binding, and all provinces were required to meet the three-year deadline by ensuring all schools had water, sanitation and electricity.
Schools made from asbestos, wood and other makeshift material had to be eradicated within that time frame.
Another deadline - set for seven years - includes electronic connectivity and the installation of security around schools. Also, all schools should have libraries and laboratories in 10â€…years. Sports fields and walkways should be provided by next year.
Motshekga published the norms and standards in 2013, but provincial departments failed to meet the targets.
A Grade 11 protester from the Eastern Cape, who can't be named as she is minor, said the norms and standard provided a blueprint on how a school should function.
“The 2013 deadline meant hope for us that in 2016 our schools will be in a better condition than they were,” she said. “Itâ€™s such a tragedy that by the time the deadline approached, our schools were the same. We still have pit toilets, roofs falling on our heads and mud classrooms.”
The pupil said the top three challenges faced by her school were safety and the lack of access to computer and science laboratories, and no library.
“We have an unstable fence around our school and anyone can gain access. Thugs come in and out as they please and rob us of the little we have.”
The group filed court papers against the department to close loopholes in the norms and standards. It asked that requirements to upgrade inappropriate schools be included.
Departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the reports were available on the website for members of the public to scrutinise and provide input.
“The education sector has achieved relatively good pro-gress in providing basic services in terms of access to services and operational capacity of the sector to provide these services.
“The department is committed to providing the infrastructure and restoring the dignity of pupils.”