Learners at Makangwane Secondary School in Nonparella, Limpopo are being taught under trees since January this year when part of the school roof was ripped off during a storm and the remaining structure posed a threat to the safety of the learners and the teachers.
This dire state of affairs has led to SECTION27 being approached to represent the School Governing Body (SGB). SECTION27 has therefore filed an urgent application on behalf of the SGB against the Limpopo Department of Education for failure to provide safe and adequate school infrastructure for learners.
On 22 January 2018, part of the corrugated iron roof flew off one of the school buildings during break time at Makangwane. Following this incident, the SGB decided that learners should no longer be taught in the severely dilapidated structures and should rather learn under nearby trees. This incident occurred after more than a decade of correspondence to the department about the state of their school buildings and the danger it poses.
In October 2006 the then principal of Makangwane wrote to the department asking them to inspect the school premises because if anything were to happen to the learners, she did not want to be responsible. This was followed by numerous correspondence over the years by the SGB and local headmen pleading for the Department’s intervention. This was met with either silence or endless broken promises.
Learners have been exposed to a myriad of structural dangers including wooden support beams falling in class, collapsed roofs after storms and snakes in the cracks in the walls. In a desperate measure to ensure the safety of all at the school, learners have been taught under surrounding trees since 30 January. This has resulted in the academically disruptive and untenable situation where some learners not having had tuition since the beginning of the year and falling behind in the coverage of the curriculum in their respective grades. Of particular concern are the matriculants who have been unable to write all their first term tests, the results of which would have been used for tertiary applications for 2019.
“I went to a career fair in the town of Bochum and met other matriculants in our district. I found it very hard to keep up with them. When I had to answer questions about where I am in my studies, I found it hard to articulate. It felt as though my peers were laughing at me. My confidence academically is very low. I want an education and at the moment I am not getting one.”- Makangwane Matric learner
The failure to ensure safe and adequate infrastructure at Makangwane is in breach of section 7(2) of the state’s constitutional duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil a host of fundamental rights including the right to equality; dignity; freedom and security of the person; an environment that is not harmful to learners’ health and wellbeing; and the right to a basic education. Furthermore the Department has failed in its obligation to ensure that in matters concerning children, their interests are paramount.
The failure to ensure placement of learners in a conducive teaching and learning environment is also in breach of the Department’s obligations under – section 195 of the Constitution, which prescribes the basic values and principles that must govern public administration; section 237 of the Constitution, which requires that all constitutional obligations be fulfilled diligently and without delay; and Section 3(3) of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (“the Schools Act”), which prescribes that the MEC is required to ensure that there are enough places in schools to ensure that every child who lives in the province for which that MEC is responsible can attend school.
Despite numerous undertakings over the years to provide mobile classrooms and to repair the school from the Limpopo Department of Education, Makangwane remains in a shambles. SECTION27 is therefore now seeking a structural interdict instructing the department to provide the following:
- Install five temporary classrooms at the school site of a size and quality sufficient to provide adequate space for teaching, learning, and the writing of examinations.
- Deliver sufficient numbers of desks and chairs to ensure that each learner at the school has his or her own reading and writing space.
- Formulate and implement a fully funded catch-up plan, in consultation with the applicant and its attorneys
- Devise and implement a costed plan for the renovation /construction of the school classrooms.
Since early March this year, SECTION27 has attempted to engage the department on numerous occasions to resolve this matter out of court. This has included writing several letters requesting a temporary and a long term plan to address the infrastructure needs of the school as well as requesting a catch-up plan for the learners to address the gaps in teaching and learning as a result of the poor infrastructure. SECTION27 did not receive a response to these attempts to engage the department.
On the day that the application was served, a response was finally received from the department. Despite numerous previous undertakings in respect of the delivery of mobile classrooms and the repair to the school, the department has now informed SECTION27 that no mobile classrooms will be delivered and there will be no renovation to the permanent structure. Instead, the department intends to merge the school with a neighbouring school.
The current state of affairs requires an urgent and immediate solution that is in the best interest of the learners to ensure that no learner is left behind. We therefore call on the department to act urgently and with viable solutions in the interests of the learners.
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