DRAFT standards for school infrastructure proposed by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga will do little to improve conditions for thousands of pupils. If they are promulgated as now proposed, the Eastern Cape, with a huge backlog of mud schools and a lack of adequate classrooms, is likely to remain in the same situation for longer.
The draft does not even define a classroom or say schools need electricity .
Similar sentiments were expressed by Faranaaz Veriava, a human rights lawyer, who wrote in the Mail & Guardian last month that Motshekga had watered down government’s constitutional commitments and obligations to improve education.
Veriava referred to regulations contained in a similar draft document made by former education Minister Naledi Pandor in 2008.
Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi declined to comment on the matter yesterday.
Earlier last month, Motshekga published draft “Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards For Public School Infrastructure” in the Government Gazette, calling for public comments before March 15.
This happened after she had been taken to court by a non-governmental organisation, Equal Education (EE), in March last year to force her to promulgate the regulations.
Motshekga opposed the application, but in November she agreed at the 11th hour to publish the regulations to avert a court battle.
The regulations are set to be promulgated by May 15 this year.
EE’s head of policy, communications and research, Yoliswa Dwane, said: “This draft fails to set a norm or standards for school infrastructure.
“It does not provide an idea of what schools should look like.
“After reading this draft, you will have no sense whether or not schools should have electricity or libraries or laboratories. It is too vague and does not give clear directions to provinces as to what they should plan for school infrastructure.
“The language used in the document is disturbing as well.
“The way access to school infrastructure is couched by the minister limits the provision of basic infrastructure to available resources and progressive realisation of these goods and services [ infrastructure] that need to be delivered to poor schools.
“This means that poor learners who learn under horrible conditions with no electricity, library, or school buildings may have to wait for ever,” Dwane said.
She said there was no mention of a school building in the document but “educational spaces”.
“This may mean anything from tree schools exposed to the elements, mud huts or shacks. This document does not give us an idea of how many classrooms are enough for schools of certain sizes.”
She said the draft was “a slap in the face of the poor”.
Dwane said the organisation had plans to conduct an outreach campaign to communities using different mediums of communication starting in mid-February to the end of March.
“The purpose of this will be to mobilise communities, learners, teachers and parents to comment on the content of this draft.”
Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) education researcher Zukiswa Kota said objectives and principles of the draft were clear and succinct, but the practicalities left much to be desired.
“It is alarming that the current draft contains less explicit detail about class sizes, numbers and such critical detail than its 2008 version.
Independent education expert Graeme Bloch said he was unsure of how the draft would help in defining how a good public school should look in South Africa.
East London education expert Dr Ken Alston said it was unacceptable for any child to study in mud classrooms or poorly built classrooms. — firstname.lastname@example.org