A victory for parents who win court battle against overcrowded schools

The Eastern Cape Department of Education has been ordered to provide 65 new classrooms within the next 90 days

The Mthatha High Court yesterday issued the order for new classrooms following parents, as part of the schools governing bodies’ fight to get the department to provide extra classrooms at four schools with overcrowding of up to 100 students per class – with as much as five children at times having to share a single desk.

According to  the South African infrastructure norms published for SA schools that have been in the process of being phased in from 2103 to 2020, no more than 40 learners are allowed to be allocated to a single classroom in SA. However this is not the case in low-fee and non-fee schools in Mthatha, Mqanduli, Mount Frere and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, where school classrooms can have more than double that amount of children.

The parents, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, argued that the overcrowded classrooms in the Mthatha, Mqanduli, Mount Frere and Engcobo schools undermined children’s constitutional rights to basic education, a healthy environment, dignity and equality.

The parents began their legal action in 2017 when, after four years of the infrastructure programme, no relief was forthcoming for their schools. The Legal Resources Centre in Makhanda took up their case.

According to Andreus Fudumele, one of the parents at Atwell Madala Senior Secondary School in Mthatha and a member of the school’s governing body,  they have  had been writing letters requesting more classrooms since October 2012. They would then be given names and telephone numbers of the relevant officials to follow on their request with but would never receive any new classrooms. Fudemele adds that in 2015 they though they were making inroads when Department of Education even sent them building plans for the new school they were going to build, yet nothing materialized since.

In 2017, the school governing body’s attorney sent a letter of demand to the Department, but this too received no response. Neither did a follow-up letter sent in February 2018.

The Mthatha High Court has now ordered the Eastern Cape Department of Education to deliver 65 new classrooms within the next 90 days.

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