PRESS RELEASE: 14 February 2012

SECTION27 Calls for Emergency Intervention to Address School Infrastructure in Limpopo

The Constitution says:

“Everyone has the right to a basic education.”

Every child the right to dignity and to be protected from neglect and or degradation.

In January 2013 SECTION27, acting on behalf of the parents, the School Governing Body (SGB) and community and the Chief of Madobi village wrote to the Department of Basic National (DBE) and the Limpopo Department of Education (LDE) to request action to address the shocking state of infrastructure at Jaji Secondary School in Vhembe district. This was necessary because the school has been complaining about dilapidated buildings and shortage of classrooms since 2005, but nothing has been done.

The following facts were brought to the DBE’s attention:

1.1           Infrastructure

1.1.1      The buildings are in a very poor physical condition; walls are badly cracked and roofs are leaking resulting in flooding in classrooms, the store room and administration office, particularly in the rainy season;

1.1.2      When it rains, learners and teachers spend two to three hours of each school day cleaning out the water. Moreover, learners are forced to sit under umbrellas in classrooms;

1.1.3      The roof of the principal’s office – which also doubles-up as a storeroom, library and administration office – leaks. Consequently, textbooks have been damaged by water, some so badly that they are no longer fit for use. Stationery has also been damaged, as has equipment such as photocopiers and printers. Due to the heavy rain in January, R3000 worth of stationery bought on credit was damaged;

1.1.4      The school and the SGB have tried to patch the roof on various occasions but due to budgetary constraints, it cannot afford to effect proper, more comprehensive repairs without assistance; nor can it afford to replace the damaged stationery and textbooks, or to replace the damaged equipment.

1.2           Overcrowding

1.2.1      The school currently has 255 learners; 117 girls and 138 boys;

1.2.2      It has only two blocks. Block 1 consists of four classrooms and the administration office. Block 2 consists of two classrooms housed in a hall partitioned by two broken garage doors; and

1.2.3      The hall houses 87 learners and some lessons have to be conducted outside under a tree and inside a small shack affixed to Block 2, which is constructed out of sheets of corrugated iron.

Following the intensity of recent rains, the SECTION27 addressed a further letter to the Limpopo Department of Basic Education, expressing its concerns about the physical infrastructure of the school, reporting resultant damage to LTSM and disruption of lessons, and appealing for urgent assistance with repairs to, or replacement of, the roof to prevent further disruptions to lessons and damage to LTSM.

SECTION27 and the SGB are pleased to report that the DBE has moved swiftly in delivering furniture to the school. It has also developed a plan that seeks to address furniture shortages by prioritizing the schools most affected by the furniture shortages, and ultimately addressing all backlogs in all Limpopo schools. In terms of this plan, all furniture shortages will be addressed by 31 March 2013.

We are encouraged by this undertaking because desks and chairs are a key component of a conducive learning environment and the right to basic education.

Unfortunately however, Jaji is just a tip of the iceberg and symptomatic of a crisis that confronts an unknown number of schools across Limpopo.

According to estimates the DBE has provided to SECTION27:

  • 200 000 learners are without desks and chairs: 106 400 primary school learners at 453 schools and 87 629 secondary school learners at 353 schools;
  • 111 schools in Limpopo are in urgent need of improved sanitation, with more than 4 000 schools requiring some intervention regarding their sanitation facilities.

On the issue of sanitation: the DBE undertook to SECTIOn27 to develop a plan on the 111 priority schools by 31 January 2013, and then to indicate when and how the sanitation problems at all schools in Limpopo will be addressed.

This plan has not yet been provided.

This concerns us because on a day-to-day basis the sanitation situation at many schools is becoming more desperate, with school toilets collapsing in the recent floods. Indeed, there are some schools in Limpopo where there are no functional toilets at all.

We have called on the DBE to take urgent steps in relation to these schools and await their response.

The Way Forward

SECTION27 appreciates the responsiveness and openness of the DBE so far to engage on sanitation, furniture and the crisis at Jaji. We hope to avoid litigation and conflict. But we must stress that these issues are urgent for children and affect basic rights. Unlike the textbooks crisis of 2012, infrastructure and access to toilets affect every single learner and teacher.

While in the main SECTION27 represents parents, learners and SGBs of affected schools, we believe that these conditions fundamentally affect the rights of teachers. It is an indignity to teachers to expect them to deliver a quality basic education in working conditions such as these.

We also believe that the same problems of maladministration and corruption that underlay the textbooks saga, is also prevalent here and will prevent swift remedies.

Limpopo Department of Education is still under national administration. We therefore call on the DBE, with support from business and other partners, to lead an urgent intervention to fix Limpopo schools.  We also call on official of the Limpopo Department of Basic Education to co-operate with the DBE in securing children’s rights.

SECTION27 also calls for an update from the DBE on actions it has taken following recommendations of the Presidential Investigation into the 2012 text books crisis in Limpopo.

For more information, please contact S’khumbuzo Maphumulo on (074) 113-7926 or Solanga Milambo on (072) 865-7771