Johannesburg 12 March 2018
SECTION27 representing Basic Education For All (BEFA) are in court on the 14 – 16 March 2018 intervening as amicus curiae in Equal Education’s bid to declare invalid certain regulations of the Minimum Norms and Standards for Public School infrastructure. These regulations, which were promulgated by the Minister of Basic Education on 29 November 2013, purport to prescribe the minimum requirements for safe and adequate school infrastructure, in line with the learners’ right to basic education.
Equal Education has challenged the constitutional validity of several of the regulations. SECTION27 will focus on the challenge to regulation 4(5)(a), which effectively makes the provision of adequate school infrastructure subject to available resources and the co-operation of other government agencies and entities. We will argue that regulation 4(5) (a) is inconsistent with the right to basic education enshrined in section 29(1)(a) of the Constitution.
We will also argue that the principles of cooperative governance in our Constitution place an obligation on all organs of state to co-operate with each other and co-ordinate their efforts to meet the needs of the public. However, final accountability and responsibility for school infrastructure lies with the Department of Education.
In supporting these arguments, SECTION27 has included evidence of schools that have unsafe and inappropriate infrastructure forcing learners to use the bush to go to the toilet, and to miss school in bad weather because their classrooms are so dilapidated. One such school is Makangwane Secondary School in Limpopo where the school’s infrastructure is so dilapidated and dangerous that learners have to be taught under a tree. Over the years the school’s principals and SGBs have been writing to the Limpopo Department of Education to no avail, and as a result some learners are now unable to write exams due to these deplorable conditions.
The norms and standards as adopted in 2013 state that all schools without “the availability of classrooms, electricity, water, sanitation, electronic connectivity and perimeter security are to be prioritised and must be dealt with and implemented within seven years from the date of publication of the regulations.” On this logic it means that schools like Makangwane Secondary will only have their infrastructure needs addressed in the year 2020, a matter we find egregious and in violation of learners’ constitutional rights.
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