Cape Town -
Advocacy group Equal Education’s victory in its campaign to secure a minimum level of infrastructure for schools could benefit thousands of pupils across South Africa.
In a settlement reached on Friday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga agreed to promulgate regulations to create binding minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
The regulations would require every school in South Africa to meet a minimum but acceptable level of school infrastructure conducive to learning and teaching.
According to the settlement, the norms and standards will be published for public comment by January 15 and finalised by May 15.
“What is good about publishing the norms and standards is that everyone will know what resources they are entitled to,” said Equal Education chairwoman Yoliswa Dwane.
Equal Education has campaigned for Motshekga to set minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure for two years. If no settlement had been reached, the matter was set to be heard in the Bhisho High Court on Tuesday.
Dwane said it was hoped that an implementation plan would be put in place with set targets for provinces.
In a press statement, Equal Education said that of the 24 793 public schools in SA:
* 93 percent have no libraries.
* 95 percent have no science labs.
* 2 402 have no water supply.
* 46 percent use pit latrine toilets.
* 913 schools have no toilets.
The group said its campaign was not over yet: “Vigilance is necessary to ensure that the minister now passes very serious norms and standards and not a substandard document. And beyond that we will need to ensure that implementation happens countrywide – which won’t happen without mobilised communities.”
Professor Maureen Robinson, dean of the faculty of education at Stellenbosch University, said the settlement was important from an educational as well as a political point of view.
“Acknowledging that we need healthy, safe environments conducive to learning and teaching is a step in the right direction,” she said.
Robinson said Equal Education was an organisation that was serious about education and it was encouraging that the minister was willing to engage with this stakeholder.
Annette Lovemore, the DA’s spokeswoman on basic education, said the DA welcomed any move by the government to improve school infrastructure: “The DA will closely monitor the compliance of the undertakings made by the minister and contribute to the regulation process with comment and recommendations. We must ensure that the norms and standards prescribed are pragmatic, implementable and in the best interests of learners to ensure the provision of quality education for all.”