Civic organisation, Equal Education (EE), joined by pupils in their numbers marched to parliament on Thursday in protest against proposed new changes to the school infrastructure law.
They said their biggest concern is a proposal by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to remove deadlines currently imposed on government to fix schools.
“The most scary change that Minister Motshekga wants to make to the school infrastructure law is to totally remove the deadlines that put the responsibility on the government to get rid of pit toilets – and provide basics such as water, electricity, classrooms, libraries, etc – by specific dates. Her proposed changes, if passed, will mean that learners and teachers will wait for many more years for safe and proper school infrastructure,” EE said in a statement.
“Basic Education Minister Motshekga signed the Norms and Standards into law in 2013, following years of tireless campaigning led by EE members (learners, post-school youths, teachers and parents) – supported by legal action. Never before did South Africa have a law that says what basic infrastructure a school must have, and by when it must be provided. We went to court in 2018 to get Minister Motshekga to fix gaps in the law, not to water it down,” it said.
One of the protesting pupils, Anathi Sikafu of Cedar High School in Mitchells Plain, added that she came to parliament “to hold the government accountable for the things that they promised”.
Public interest law centre, Section27 said they, too, stood in solidarity with EE.
“The Minimum Norms and Standards outline what a school should be – safe, sanitary, conducive for learning – and when the government was supposed to deliver crucial infrastructure like toilets, libraries, etc. The changes proposed by the Department of Basic Education scrap accountability for safe school infrastructure. We cannot allow Minister Angie Motshekga to change the law in order to evade accountability at the expense of learners,” the organisation said.
However DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said they did not intend to remove the deadline.
“There is no intention to remove the deadline. There will be more time given to get public comments. The document is not difficult but people are only focusing only on what Equal Education is focusing on, which is not the whole picture. Nobody should allow themselves to be misled or to be directed to a particular area of a much broader discussion. We invite people to write and submit comments, not just protest in the streets. The current regulations allow for a review and amendments so after many years of implementing the time has come to review,” he said.
Comments can be sent to Mr E R Mafoko at [email protected]