No WCED upgrades for schools on private land

Cape Town - Advocacy group Equal Education is demanding the Western Cape Education Department explain why it won't provide infrastructure upgrades to 266 state schools - including many farm schools - situated on private land.

At a press conference earlier this week, where the group released its social audit report, it called on Education MEC Debbie Schafer to explain how it could be legal to exclude those schools from their infrastructure plans and how the department would ensure the safety of pupils at those schools.

(File picture) A farm school in the Western Cape. Picture: David Ritchie. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

The audit was conducted at 244 schools and highlighted serious concerns around safety and security and problems with sanitation facilities at schools.

According to the audit report, the department has stated in its Strategy for the Elimination of Public School Infrastructure Backlogs in the Western Cape that it would exclude government schools on privately owned land from the infrastructure upgrades set out in the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.

"This alleged loophole allows the WCED to wash its hands of responsibility for 266 schools, 16 percent of all Western Cape Schools. As a result, more than half of schools the WCED identified as having inadequate fencing were eliminated from the backlog because they are on private land."

Western Cape Education Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said the department's main priority was to invest in state property where a larger number of pupils could benefit from the investment.

"The department has not excluded schools on private land, and will consider appropriate investment, depending on available funds."

He said schools on private property belonged to owners to whom the department paid rent. "Owners are responsible for structural changes and investments in their property. The department cannot force the owners to make these changes, especially for small numbers of learners on some farm schools, for example."