Section27 is representing the School Governing Body (SGB) of Makangwane Secondary School (Makangwane School) in an urgent application against the Limpopo Department of Education (the Department) launched on 24 May 2018. The matter will be heard in the Limpopo High Court on Tuesday, 26 June 2018.
Makangwane, is a public high school with ailing infrastructure situated in the remote village of Non-Parella, in the Capricorn District of Limpopo. It serves a poor, rural community and is a “no-fee school”. The poor state of infrastructure at the school came to a head on 22 January 2018 when the corrugated iron roof of one of the classrooms blew off during school break time nearly injuring learners. Following this incident, the SGB and community members decided to move the learners out of the classrooms to learn under surrounding trees due to concerns for their safety.
The application seeks to ensure that the learners of Makangwane School are taught in safe and adequate school facilities before 17 July 2018, which is when the third school term begins. Because Department officials refused to allow teaching to continue outdoors, lessons were irregular or did not occur at all. If nothing is done before school reopens for the third term, the learners at Makangwane School face another school term in unsafe and inadequate facilities.
The Department does not deny that the school buildings are in a dire state and are not conducive for teaching and learning. This is confirmed in a report that was prepared by the Department in April 2018 describing the buildings as “uninhabitable” and a “disaster”. Yet despite being aware of the conditions at the school, the Department has repeatedly failed to improve conditions at the school – inspite of several undertakings to do so. In fact, the Department has not performed any maintenance on the school buildings since the school was first constructed in the 1970s.
SECTION27 representing the Makangwane SGB therefore seeks the following court order:
- A declaration that the Department’s failure to provide safe and adequate school facilities and its failure to develop and or make known plans to address these failures is a violation of the rights of the learners of the school including the right to basic education [section29(1)(a)]; the right to dignity (section 10); the right to equality (section 9) and Section 28(2) that provides that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
- An interim interdict requiring the Department puts in place short-term measures to allow proper and effective teaching and learning to resume by the start of the third school term on 17 July 2018. These measures must include the delivery of at least 5 mobile classrooms; adequate school furniture to allow all learners to have their own space to read and write and a catch-up plan to compensate for the gaps in the curriculum as a result of the disruptions to teaching and learning in the first half of 2018.
- A further interdict directing the Department to develop and begin implementing a detailed and costed implementation plan setting out a permanent solution to the problem of inadequate and dangerous infrastructure at Makangwane School.
- An order directing the Department to report to the Court at regular intervals, on the steps taken to comply with these orders.
Following the institution of this case, the Department unilaterally, and without following the mandatory consultative process prescribed by the Schools Act, imposed a decision to merge Makangwane School with the neighbouring Sephaoweng Primary School. Section27 has therefore also asked the Court to join Sephaoweng School who will be represented at these proceedings by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC).
The SGB of Makangwane does not necessarily oppose the temporary merger if it would facilitate a solution that ensures that learning and teaching proceeds. However we are concerned that the current approach to the merger threatens to compound the rights violations by presenting further risks to the rights of learners at Makangwane and now also at Sephaoweng. It is irrefutable that in its current state, Makangwane School poses a severe risk to the safety of learners and teachers at the school and needs urgent intervention.
Section27’s heads of argument are available at Makangwane – Heads of Argument – 25.6.2018 FINAL
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