Equal Education hails school infrastructure judgment

A Equal Education march. Picture: Facebook

A Equal Education march. Picture: Facebook

All mud classrooms must be replaced, and it’s illegal for schools not to have water, sanitation and electricity, the Bisho High Court ruled.

Equal Education says the Bisho High Court gave a Constitutionally sound interpretation of the State’s duties to properly address the crisis conditions at South African schools.

This after the NGO won a protracted battle today against the Minister of Basic Education regarding norms and standards for school infrastructure.

The court order will now ensure that the country’s law on school infrastructure will be enforced. The court also found that the government’s indefinite delay in fixing unsafe and inadequate infrastructure at schools was “unconstitutional” and “invalid”.

There will be no more excuses for failure by the nine provinces to comply with the deadlines set for providing essential infrastructure at schools.

“For two years EE attempted to engage Minister [Angie] Motshekga on the problems in the law, while following up on progress in work to fix South Africa’s schools. Our request was simple: for government to commit to meeting its own infrastructure targets. During this time Minister Motshekga failed to respond substantively to the problems that we identified in the law,” EE said in a statement.

The regulations set a deadline for the replacement of unsafe structures at schools, as well as the provision of basic levels of water, sanitation and electricity in schools by November 2016, but the deadline came and went.

“The deadline by which Minister Motshekga had to ensure that no school was without water, electricity or sanitation, came and went, with schools around the country still lacking the most basic infrastructure. The Court has now made very clear that this is entirely unlawful. This momentous victory has strengthened the ability of learners, teachers, parents, communities and civil society organisations to hold the State to its duty of protecting learners’ right to dignity, equality and education.”

The court ordered today that all schools and classrooms built from mud and other inappropriate materials must be replaced in accordance with the national building regulations, as well as occupational health and safety regulations.

The Department of Education will now be forced to comply with its norms and standards in that schools without water, electricity and sanitation must be provided with the services.

The court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the regulations not to provide for plans and reports to be made public and ordered that this be amended by the Minister of Basic Education.

In March, Lumka Mkhethwa drowned in a school’s pit latrine. The five-year-old’s body was found inside the latrine in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, a day after she had gone missing. In another incident, five-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School, outside Polokwane, four years ago.

African News Agency (ANA)

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