SECTION27 Submissions: The Department of Basic Education’s proposed amendments to the School Infrastructure Regulations are vague, irrational, unlawful and unconstitutional

SECTION27 has made its submission on the proposed amendments to the Regulations Relating to Uniform Minimum Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure  (“The Regulations”).

After years of missing deadlines to fix school infrastructure, the avoidable deaths of learners as in the case of Michael Komape, and years of pressure by civil society organisations to first promulgate regulations for minimum norms for safe and decent school infrastructure, and then implement these norms, the Department of Basic Education (“DBE”) has now removed ALL accountability mechanisms from the Regulations and severely whittled down what constitutes a minimum enabling school environment. This now makes the Regulations toothless. It also means that if a learner is poor and presumably black, they must not expect the same facilities which their wealthier counterparts at other schools will have. They cannot expect the provision of basic services at their schools, technology and life sciences laboratories or sports and recreation facilities. SECTION27 views this as a blatant move by the DBE to avoid its constitutional obligation to provide safe and decent school infrastructure as quickly and effectively as possible, and advance the right to a basic education for all learners, which is an immediately realisable right.

In response to the DBE’s public call for comments on the proposed amendments to the Regulations made on 10 June 2022, SECTION27 makes a series of recommendations in its submission to remedy our concerns in respect of rationality, lawfulness and constitutionality.

  1. SECTION27 recommends that the timeframes already expressed in the Regulations be retained and that the reference to the National Development Plan (“NDP”) timeframes be removed. The NDP timeframes are not legally binding, they are also unduly long and do not comply with the “immediate realisation” standard in respect of the right to basic education.
  1. SECTION27 recommends that the current obligation to provide electricity, water, sanitation and electronic connectivity within a seven-year timeframe not be removed from the Regulations.
  1. SECTION27 further recommends that proposed amendments expressly refer to adequate perimeter security and school safety, as opposed to only perimeter fencing, to ensure that the entire regulation 17 of the Regulations is given effect to.
  1. SECTION27 further recommends that Members of the Executive Council (“MECs”) remain responsible for reporting on the implementation of the Regulations and that the structured reporting guidelines currently in the Regulations be retained. While we welcome the recommendation that a progress report be published on the DBE website and websites of all nine Provincial Education Departments (“PEDs”), we recommend that this be further amended to state that the progress reports and plans be published on the DBE website and websites of all nine PEDs within 30 days after being made available to the Minister.
  1. SECTION27 also recommends that the minimum education areas currently listed in Annexure A to the Regulations not be whittled down but must be retained to include not just science laboratories but also technology and life sciences laboratories as well as sports and recreational facilities.
  1. Lastly, SECTION27 recommends that the Regulations be amended to include accountability mechanisms focusing specifically on greater monitoring and oversight of implementing agents, such as increased reporting obligations imposed on PEDs and the making of publicly available information on the performance of implementing agents and those who have been blacklisted.

Read SECTION27 submissions below:

For media queries contact Pearl Nicodemus 0822982636 nicodemus@section27.org.za