Fix dangerous and inadequate schools - Equal Education writes to Ramaphosa
Equal Education (EE) has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa to express frustration and dismay over the lack of urgency in addressing the issue of infrastructure in schools across South Africa.
"As you know, thousands of South African learners attend schools with dangerous conditions, and many more are without adequate teaching and learning spaces and resources," general secretary Noncedo Madubedube wrote in a letter on Monday.
This comes after the Constitutional Court on October 29 denied the Department of Basic Education's leave to appeal the Bhisho High Court's ruling that declared certain provisions of the school infrastructure law unconstitutional.
"Thankfully, this country’s courts continue to provide us with hope. They properly construe the Constitution so as to ensure that the executive remains accountable for the safety, dignity and equality of South African children and learners," Madubedube said.
The department was ordered to fix legislation on the Norms and Standards that govern school infrastructure.
The organisation, in a previous letter, had expressed their disappointment to the president after the department decided to launch an appeal following the judgment, but they "were ignored".
"We tried our best to avoid litigating, to begin with, and we pleaded with you and the department to respect the Bhisho High Court’s well-reasoned decision. We asked you to engage us on the ruling that the obligations to fix schools falls on the state as a whole, and must be subject to specific time frames," Madubedube wrote.
"We called publicly on you, [Education] Minister [Angie] Motshekga and all the provincial education ministers to #StopTheAppeal. We were again ignored," she added.
EE has further called out the wasteful expenditure used on litigation that was never going succeed, in its view.
"Learners, teachers, parents and activists, as well as good civil servants, have now had to wait an additional three and a half months, without a strong set of school infrastructure regulations, while the leave to appeal pended," Madubedube explained.
EE further called out the president for failing to show leadership, political will, and dedication to constitutionalism with respect to stopping the appeal.
"We had to rely on the court to 'Stop the Appeal', because you did not," Madubedube wrote.
Limpopo school sanitation 'plan'
EE, in its follow up letter, also places on record "the inadequate and unconstitutional 'plan' which the national and Limpopo education departments provided to the Polokwane High Court".
"The plan that your national education department filed jointly with the Limpopo department shows none of the urgency that you indicated in your requests to Minister Motshekga following Lumka Mkethwa’s death in March this year, nor in the rhetoric we heard at the launch of the SAFE initiative," she wrote.
EE claims that the plan in question does not provide an adequate assessment of the issue of dangerous latrines in schools, or create an interim safety measure.
"With this apparent lack of empathy, care and urgency, we are left to ask, how many more children must die?" Madubedube asks.
She said she hoped that, through the letter, EE would be afforded the opportunity to engage with Ramaphosa further.
"Mr President, it pains us to receive substantive responses from the executive only in the form of court papers. As we said in our previous letter, we would welcome an opportunity to engage with you and the minister further, and in person, on these critical issues."