We learners, parents, teachers, principals, government officials, members of social movements, civil society organisations, professional bodies and trade unions, ordinary citizens and community members have come together with one goal: to see the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (Norms & Standards), which are regulations brought into law by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on 29 November 2013, successfully implemented so that every learner and every teacher can have the benefit of safe schools that support their learning.
We recognise that:
- The Norms & Standards, although not perfect, are a breakthrough for advancing the right to a basic education, among other rights. They give us an opportunity to see the realization of important aspects of the right, that cannot be missed.
- The provision of safe schools that support learning is not only fundamental to realising the constitutionally guaranteed rights to education, health, equality and human dignity, but is also a life and death question, as shown by the tragic passing of Michael Komape, in whose honour this conference was held.
- There are enormous backlogs inherited from an unequal and unjust past; therefore the task facing government departments and private contractors is formidable.
- School infrastructure backlogs must be seen in the context of infrastructure backlogs in communities. Fixing our schools is therefore also an opportunity to develop infrastructure in our communities generally.
- Instances of intimidation and victimization of those who speak out about poor school infrastructure are intolerable, and do not assist in achieving the goals set in the Norms & Standards. People must be encouraged to speak out about the conditions at their schools and in their communities, in the best interests of the learners.
- Successfully implementing the Norms & Standards will require the active involvement of the whole of society, and that grassroots organising, building community knowledge, and social mobilisation will be critical, and are to be encouraged.
- The provision of adequate school infrastructure to thousands of schools attended by poor and working class learners will form part of the redistribution of resources required to transform and develop South Africa in the interests of the majority of its people. This will require sustained mobilisation and support.
Having learned and deliberated together over two full and interesting days, we resolve that this conference is the first step towards building a broad coalition to ensure effective implementation of the Norms & Standards.
To this end we further resolve to:
- Keep open channels of communication among all relevant stakeholders engaged in making appropriate school infrastructure a reality, including government departments and agencies.
- Engage with Parliament, both nationally and provincially, as well as all other institutions of democracy, on monitoring the implementation of the Norms & Standards.
- Continue to grow our understanding of and communication around government planning and budgeting process.
- Embark on a sustained program, using all available means, including distribution of posters and pamphlets, door-to-door campaigning, community meetings, strengthening of parent and student organisations, and the use of all forms of media, to share this knowledge widely with all stakeholders in education, including:
o Those who depend upon decent school infrastructure: principals, teachers, learners and parents; and
o Those who must provide school infrastructure: education districts, provinces, relevant government departments and agencies, implementing agents and private contractors.
- Equip school communities with skills and knowledge needed to ensure effective implementation, in order that they participate actively in providing accurate information to districts, provinces, and independent organisations about the reality they face.
- Ensure that schools built and renovated meet acceptable standards of quality.
- Ensure that school infrastructure adequately accommodates learners with disabilities, and that their access to and enjoyment of education is not restricted by inappropriate school infrastructure.
- Ensure that school infrastructure is adequately maintained; requiring school communities to look after the infrastructure at their schools, and obliging government to provide schools with the necessary resources and funding to maintain them.
- Be vigilant in ensuring that the deadlines included in the Norms & Standards are met, and bold and proactive in taking action if deadlines are missed.
For more information contact:
Nombulelo Nyathela (Equal Education)
060 503 4933
Lisa Draga (Equal Education Law Centre)
072 650 0214
Nikki Stein (SECTION27)
082 528 7232
Cameron McConnachie (Legal Resources Centre)
083 387 8738