Activists Picket Against Removal Of Deadlines To Fix Schools

The Department of Basic Education has been struggling to meet the school infrastructure backlog for years. The fight for a conducive learning environment has taken a turn as government plans to scrap the stipulated deadlines for changes to school infrastructure.

Today, members of the Equal Education organization are marching to the Eastern Cape Department of Education offices in Zwelitsha to protest against the government’s plans to remove deadlines for infrastructure improvements at schools.

Similar protests have been held in the Eastern Cape, Pretoria as well as Western Cape over the past few weeks.

These protests follow a statement released by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, inviting the public to comment on the proposed amendments to the 2013 regulation for minimum norms and standards for public school infrastructure.

Motshekga signed the regulation after years of determined requests and campaigning led by members of the Equal Education organization.

“Without these deadlines, we will not be able to hold them to account and what is concerning is that learners are going to wait,” says Tshegofatso Phala, executive director of the Equal Education Law Centre.

The department’s initial closing date for feedback from the public was until 10 June 2023 but has since been postponed until 31 July 2023, after Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre voiced that only allowing the public one month to submit comments is unjust.

The regulation set various deadlines for when certain improvements to school infrastructure had to be completed over the past 10 years. The first of these deadlines included eradicating pit toilets in schools, however, this deadline was missed by several provincial education departments.

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The Department of Basic Education plans to remove all deadlines for when infrastructure should be fixed and suggests that it should be included in the government’s National Development Plan.

In 2016, asbestos and other unsuitable materials for school buildings were to be replaced and all South African schools should have had water, electricity, and sanitation by 2020.

Numerous organizations along with Equal Education have expressed that they are disappointed by the proposed amendments, adding that Motshekga had published them without consulting teacher’s unions and other stakeholders.

Equal Education has urged the public to write to the department and say no to the scrapping of deadlines.

 

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