Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has described the national deadlines set for eliminating the infrastructure backlogs at schools as “unrealistic”.
The notoriously cash-strapped department needs R59 billion to comply with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s regulations on the minimum norms and standards for public school infrastructure.
Without extra funding, it says, addressing the school infrastructure backlogs in the province will remain a “pipe dream”.
The regulations were published in the Government Gazette in December 2013, and gave provincial education departments three years from that date to ensure that all schools had access to water, decent sanitation and electricity; seven years to fence all schools and build enough classrooms so that class sizes would not exceed 40 pupils; and 10 years to equip schools with libraries, laboratories and sports facilities.
The KZN Education Department’s norms and standards implementation plans were released on Friday, along with those of six other provincial education departments.
Rights organisation Equal Education had staged marches in various cities in recent months demanding the release of the plans, to which Motshekga’s department retorted that it would not be rushed into doing so by “attention-seeking NGOs”.
Motshekga’s promulgating of the regulations two years ago followed a sustained campaign by Equal Education, which included court action.
Her department is set to ask National Treasury for extra funds to ensure the successful implementation of the regulations, and has established an infrastructure unit with its own deputy director-general.
The implementation plans submitted by KZN to Motshekga emphasise that while the province is committed to eradicating infrastructure backlogs, the deadlines and associated costs are “not feasible and unachievable” because of the department’s stretched budget. It also doubts that it has the manpower needed to get the job done.
According to the implementation document, there are 64 schools in KZN without toilets, 181 without water, and 628 without electricity.
The merging of so-called “non-viable schools” (less than 200 pupils) is one way in which the provincial department is trying to make a dent in the backlog.
“Years four to seven are likely to provide the biggest challenge in meeting the requirements of the regulations,” said the document.
“Particularly in addressing the classroom backlogs because of the sheer volume of facilities that have to be provided. Between R5.8bn and R7bn will be required per annum to meet the seven-year time frames,” the document states.
“Without extra funds, addressing the backlogs will remain a pipe dream.”
What KZN schools need:
* Toilets for 64 schools.
* Water for 181 schools.
* Electricity for 628 schools.
* Fences for 200 schools.
* Nearly 6 000 more classrooms, and nearly 4 000 more Grade R classrooms.
* Kitchens for 2 808 no-fee schools to prepare feeding scheme meals.
* About 3 000 libraries, 4 808 laboratories, and 3 178 computer rooms.
* R5 billion a year in years one to three.
* R6.5bn a year in years four to seven.
* R2.7bn a year for years eight to 10.
* R2.1bn a year in years 11 to 16.