Cape Town - The draft minimum norms and standards announced last year have come under fire from critics who say they will do nothing to improve schooling.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga published the eight-page draft document in the Government Gazette dated January 8, and called for interested parties to comment before March 15 after reaching a settlement with Equal Education about the need for infrastructure standards for South Africa’s 25 000 schools.

But Equal Education general secretary Brad Brockman told the Cape Times the document would not lead to changes at schools.

“The draft fails to establish clear and specific basic infrastructure standards, is non-binding, and lacks any time frames. If adopted in its current form, the norms and standards will do nothing to improve school infrastructure in SA.”

He said the point of adopting norms and standards was to ensure all schools had the basic infrastructure needed to function, and to guarantee this entitlement in law.

“The current draft says things like schools are entitled to ‘some form of energy’ and ‘adequate sanitation’, without ever specifying what this is.”

Brockman said this was clearly an attempt by the department to sidestep its responsibility to SA’s children.

Equal Education might take Motshekga to court again if she did not set adequate standards for schools.

Naledi Pandor, former minister of education, had published a 36-page draft norms and standards document more than four years ago.

“The 2008 draft recognised that setting basic infrastructure standards is a positive step, and that norms and standards should form the basis of any plan to address our school infrastructure backlog.”

Brockman said Equal Education would submit its comments to the department and ask the public to demand that Motshekga adopt adequate norms and standards.

“If this fails, we are prepared to return to court.”

Equal Education took legal action last year against Motshekga, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and education MECs seeking an order compelling minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, after a two-year campaign.

According to the draft document, its objective was to:

- Provide minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure, and ensure this was a reality.

- Address infrastructure backlogs.

- Ensure that new school infrastructure complied with norms and standards.

- Promote accountability and reporting on school infrastructure.

- Improve quality of infrastructure to redress deficiencies inherited from the past.

Basil Manuel, the president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said he viewed the document with “dismay and a deep sense of disappointment” . “These regulations are not only vague, there is no substance to them.

“They do not chart a way forward,” he said.

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Cape Times