Makhado, Limpopo, 5 May 2016 – The burning of schools in Vuwani, Limpopo deprives learners of the right to a basic education as enshrined in the Constitution. As well as infrastructure and sanitation facilities being entirely destroyed, the schools have lost essential tools such as textbooks and school furniture. This will cause a severe interruption in educating learners. In addition, monies budgeted for other essential educational necessities will now have to be redirected to remedy the damage caused. This is a huge setback for a province that already has enormous education backlogs.
We call on all stakeholders, including educators, political parties, trade unions, churches, community members, civil society actors and others to work together with the relevant state authorities, including the demarcation board and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to urgently resolve this issue and focus on providing access to quality basic education to learners.
As of this morning, 14 schools had been reportedly burnt to the ground and another 8 are damaged by fire in Vuwani, according to police reports. This amounts to 26,937 displaced learners and approximately 100, 000 whose schools have been closed due to safety concerns.
This spate of events came shortly after the loss of a High Court application bid by the community to remain part of the Makhado local municipality, instead of being integrated into the new Malamulele municipality.
This is the latest in a number of protests this year where schools and by extension, poor, black, marginalised learners have borne the brunt of the wellspring of anger, with schooling being affected.
While we do not understand the complexity of the reasons for the Vuwani community’s anger, we empathise with them and this must not occur at the expense of learners’ safety or access to schools. For many underprivileged, poor black children in Limpopo and their kin, quality education is the key to socio-economic transformation. As Constitutional Court Judge, Navsa J, said in the recent textbooks judgment, “It cannot be emphasised enough that basic education should be seen as the primary driver of transformation”.
The grim reality we face is that the state of basic education in Limpopo is catastrophic, to paraphrase Minister Angie Motshekga, with the department facing a myriad problems. According to the Regulations relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure, all schools should have adequate water, sanitation and power supplies by December 2016. However, the Limpopo Department of Education is already behind thistarget, only having actively assessed the needs of 1,227 out of 4,090 schools.
SECTION27 is aware of at least 60 schools with serious infrastructure problems that interfere with teaching and learning and in many cases are physically dangerous to learners and teachers. The safety of learners must be prioritised. Basic Education For All and SECTION27have also received reports of over 17, 000 textbooks shortages this year. The complete destruction of 17 schools only adds to the education crisis.
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