GOVERNMENT MUST #FIXTHEFORGOTTENSCHOOLS, SAYS SECTION27
SECTION27 takes education authorities to court for suspending infrastructure projects at Limpopo schools during Covid-19.
UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 9AM 3 October 2022 – SECTION27 has filed papers with the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) to ensure that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Limpopo Department of Education (LDOE) to fix infrastructure at forgotten schools in Limpopo, following government’s decision to suspend infrastructure projects to repair and renovate schools in 2020. Two years after the suspension of infrastructure projects, we ask the court to review and set aside that decision so that schools we represent in Limpopo can receive infrastructure that they urgently need.
SECTION27 represents four Limpopo schools, including Ndzalama Primary School, Dingamanzi Primary School, Chameti Secondary School, and Bvuma Primary School. These schools have serious infrastructure problems that endanger the lives of school staff and learners, disrupt teaching and learning, and violate children’s rights to dignity, equality, and basic education. Many schools were promised infrastructure projects years before the Covid-19 lockdown, and in some cases, funds were even allocated for delivery of these projects; but when the pandemic struck, infrastructure projects were suspended indefinitely. Projects that were supposed to be concluded years ago remain unfinished, and school communities continue to suffer the consequences. Government has indicated they will be opposing the matter in court.
Learners, school staff and caregivers from the schools we represent have described the challenges caused by their school infrastructure. For example, when it rains, learners at some schools are crammed into classrooms where leaking is not as bad or shift desks and textbooks around to avoid water damage. Learners are sometimes sent home ahead of storms because the noise caused by rain or wind on damaged roofing is deafening; learners and educators are worried about classrooms collapsing due to structural defects of school buildings. In other cases, the lack of adequate classrooms causes overcrowding, and overcrowded classes often overheat in the hot climate of Limpopo. At some schools, learners are forced to learn outside under trees because of the lack of safe and sufficient classrooms. These conditions make it not only very difficult for educators to teach but also for learners to concentrate. The extent of the neglect of the forgotten schools stretches back years and, in some cases, decades:
- Ndzalama Primary School’s roof was damaged in a storm in 2012. In 2018, another storm completely ripped off the roof of two classroom blocks entirely. Unable to use these classrooms, the school is forced to squeeze learners into safer classrooms. Overcrowding has made teaching and learning extremely difficult.
- The school community of Dingamanzi Primary School has been trying to engage with the LDOE since 2001 about classrooms that are dilapidated and unsafe. The school does not have sufficient classrooms for its learners, nor does it have electricity. When it rains, the noise of rain on the roof is so loud that learning stops entirely.
- Some classrooms at Chameti Secondary School were made from mud bricks in 1988, which are cracked, crumbling, and dangerous. Supporting pillars of the classrooms were damaged in a storm a decade ago, but the LDOE has not fixed the school.
- Similar conditions exist at Bvuma Primary School, where mud brick classrooms get so hot that learners cannot concentrate. Learners are squeezed into newer classrooms, causing overcrowding. A storm at Bvuma Primary School ripped the roof off two blocks of toilets, leaving them exposed, and electrical equipment at the school is also damaged.
Each of these schools were promised infrastructure repairs to improve the learning and teaching environment, and in many cases money was allocated – and sometimes even allegedly spent – on these projects. But conditions at the schools have not improved, and projects that were supposed to be completed remain in limbo. SECTION27 believes that broken promises and missed deadlines to #FixTheForgottenSchools are unconscionable.
SECTION27 is approaching the court to declare education authorities’ decision to suspend infrastructure projects during Covid-19 unlawful and unconstitutional. We are asking the court to order the DBE and LDoE develop a plan for the building, repair and renovation of the schools we represent, and to implement these plans within specific timeframes. We also request systemic relief, and are asking that the LDoE deliver a list of all other school infrastructure projects that were suspended during 2020, along with a plan to complete these projects. This plan must set dates for when construction will resume at each school, so that schools don’t have to wait decades more to get the infrastructure they deserve. We are also asking the DBE and LDoE to ensure that any budgetary shortfalls are identified so that adequate resources can be provided for the delivery of infrastructure projects to schools.
Despite being promised infrastructure delivery before the COVID-19 pandemic, all of these schools have seemingly been forgotten by the government departments tasked with ensuring schools are a safe and conducive environment for learning. What this means is that hundreds of learners, born after the end of apartheid, have started and completed their schooling experience at schools where infrastructure is unsafe. The continued existence of unsafe school infrastructure has violated entire generations of learners’ rights to equality, dignity and basic education. SECTION27 calls on government to #FixTheForgottenSchools!
Read our founding affidavit here.
European Union funding supports SECTION27’s work on education rights issues.
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- Julia Chaskalson (0834402674 email@example.com)