Lebowakgomo, Limpopo 23 March 2017:  Basic Education for All (BEFA) and SECTION27 condemn the heavy-handed actions of members of the police in barring our members from entering the Limpopo Provincial Legislature in Lebowakgomo today.  Members of the BEFA executive team and concerned parents wished to attend the Limpopo Education MEC’s budget speech but were prevented from doing so by two policemen, despite initially being given permission by the registrars.

The police told our members that they could not enter the legislature with camera equipment and posters. After the complying with the request to leave these items in the car, our members were refused entry.

The provincial legislature is a public space, open to anyone to attend. Police actions in this case are a violation of rights conferred in section 16of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. The stand-off lasted just over an hour during which the police continued to refuse our members entry on the basis that they had been instructed to do so but it is unclear from whom the instruction came. The posters carried by our members were later confiscated.

This in the context of the failure of the Limpopo Education Department to achieve 100% delivery of textbooks in the province. At a time when children still face the indignity of using dilapidated pit toilets which are not only unhygienic but often dangerous and potentially fatal. The rights of parents and learners were not only violated today, but are violated every day the department fails provide adequately safe schools for learners in Limpopo.

Limpopo schools place learners’ health and safety at risk. Last year, only 12 schools were fully repaired and there are five schools still under construction and we have no timeframes for completion.  While we welcome the work the department has started with, there are still 16 schools among our membership with infrastructure issues.  Some have as many as seven unusable classrooms in a single school. School sanitation is in a similar predicament: Unusable and dangerous pit toilets have not been replaced.

We are also concerned with textbooks and stationery. As an organisation, we have been speaking to parents to ensure that textbooks that were used by their children are returned to school in good condition so that a textbook can finish its five year span to allow other learners to use it. At the beginning of 2017, while our focus was on textbooks shortages, we began receiving reports of stationery not being delivered. We are dismayed that it took the department the whole month of January to deliver stationery to schools.

We are fully aware that the state of infrastructure, funding and provisioning in Limpopo schools cannot be addressed overnight, but we remind the department that our learners have a right to basic education and that this right it immediately realisable:  The department is taking too long to give effect to our learners’ rights.

We will monitor the 2017/2018 Limpopo education budget and we hope that the R28.4 billion will be spent so that:

  1. Every no-fee school is allocated norms and standards funding of at least R1 242 per learner, and that these funds are transferred to the schools on time.
  2. Completed construction at the schools currently still under construction by the end of the year.
  3. Immediate emergency relief for schools in dire need of new classrooms.
  4. Immediate emergency relief for schools with unusable or unsafe pit toilets.
  5. A plan to ensure timeous and sufficient delivery of school textbooks and stationery in 2018.

As citizens of this country, we have a right to voice the above concerns and the fact that we were barred from doing so is a clear violation of those rights.

Ends

For more information contact:

Nomatter Ndebele:        072 919 2752

Solanga Milambo:              072 865 7771

We asked the learners in Limpopo to give us a real view of what the state of education is in the province and what they would like to see in the budget. Check out their responses in this video: