Classrooms with “pot- holes”, 90 pupils to one teacher, pit latrines and sanitation so bad pupils caught Hepatitis C from the school toilets.
This is the picture painted in a Bhisho High Court challenge against the Basic Education Department, showing 24 SA schools across the country as places where pupils are fighting not only for a decent education but, in some cases, for their lives.
The case, which was brought by the Equal Education NGO and the Legal Resources Centre, is an attempt to get the court to force Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to implement minimum norms and standards for facilities at schools and hold provinces accountable for not spending on school infrastructure.
The court challenge has revealed that pupils at schools listed in the case endure appalling circumstances.
The case consist of affidavits from principals and governing body heads which detail the extent of infrastructure chaos at schools across the country. Water supply and toilets are a major problem, while libraries are virtually non-existent.
Wenani Ngxabani, governing body chairman of the Samson Senior Primary School in Lebode, Eastern Cape, says the school is at the bottom of the province’s list for renovations and furniture, but pupils cannot endure another four years of the current conditions. The school consists of six mud structures and the closest tap is 5km away. “The lack of water affects the learners as they are often extremely thirsty and lose concentration easily,” he says.
At Meadowridge Primary School in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain, 1 192 pupils share 32 toilets, which principal Norman Daniels says are in a poor state of repair.
“The pipes are very old and corroded, the lids are broken, there is no tiling and there is urine seeping into the cement…” he says.
The toilets are so bad some pupils have become ill, he said.
“We even had two cases where learners caught Hepatitis C from the toilets. This was verified by their doctors. An adequate learning environment is one in which there is no health risk,” Daniels says.
The school’s art room, technology room, science room and one of two storerooms are used as classrooms because of overcrowding.
Milente Secondary School in Kgasha Village, Limpopo, has 105 pupils. Governing body chairman David Minyuku says there are “gaping potholes” in classroom floors.
“The school does not have running water and relies on water tanks provided by the community.
“There are weeks when the school is unable to obtain any water and the tanks run dry. When this happens the school must buy water with money from its own limited budget,” Minyuku says.
Amos Hlungwane, principal of Bogosi Primary in Moratele in North West, says the school also has to buy water from nearby home owners.
The 634 pupils use 14 pit toilets but often cannot wash their hands.
“The learners must bring water from home or I must use my bakkie to go to the village nearby and buy water, then put one bucket of water outside each classroom,” he says.
Other schools have leaking roofs which make it impossible to teach during the rainy season.
Equal Education’s Yoliswa Dwane, who deposed the founding affidavit in the case, says that while the government has acknowledged the infrastructure problems, it has failed to address them.
She says the National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical and Learning Environment, published in 2010, cannot be effective without a document setting out legally binding norms and standards.
“The absence of prescribed minimum norms and standards impacts particularly harshly on learners at thousands of poor and historically disadvantaged schools,” Dwane says. She believes the publication of norms and standards would prevent provinces like the Eastern Cape underspending on infrastructure.
The department intends opposing the application.