Government is committed to intensifying efforts to ensure all schools had appropriate structures, sanitation and an adequate water and electricity supply, President Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday.
In his keynote address to open the three-day basic education lekgotla in Ekurhuleni, Ramaphosa said mud schools should be banished to the past so that “all our children can go to the toilet in safe and hygienic conditions”.
Ramaphosa’s pledge comes in the wake of last December’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruling, which ordered that the family of Michael Komape, who died in 2014 when his school’s pit latrine collapsed, get more than R1 million in damages for emotional shock and grief.
The court put the basic education department on terms to ensure it supplied and installed toilets at all rural schools.
“Our schools and the entire education sector will benefit from integrated planning, better coordination and accelerated delivery of non-core responsibilities such as sanitation, infrastructure, electrification, water and roads.
“Through the district development model, collaboration between departments and the different spheres of government will be improved to offer multi-disciplinary solutions to community challenges that often result in the disruption of learning and teaching,” said Ramaphosa.
Regarding school violence, Ramaphosa said: “Working together through the national school safety framework, let us ensure our schools are free of violence, drugs, dangerous weapons, bullying, cyberbullying, gangsterism, sexual abuse and harassment.”
Congratulating the matric class of 2019, Ramaphosa said the performance of South African pupils in international standardised tests “should be comparable to the performance of pupils from countries at a similar level of development”.
“It is significant that our matric pass rate has breached the 80% threshold for the very first time since the advent of democracy. In achieving these results, many schools had to overcome challenges imposed by resource constraints, violent protests in their communities, the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse and other such social ills.
“Among these is Ribane Laka High School in Mamelodi which achieved an impressive 97% pass rate against all odds.”
“Our immediate task as government is to improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially reading for meaning.
“It is for this reason that reading for meaning has now been declared an apex priority.”