12 February 2016
Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) calls on the Basic Education Department to release the provincial implementation progress reports now!
The school infrastructure crisis in Limpopo
The Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) is failing to provide learners with the minimum standards of safe and adequate basic school infrastructure. According to the latest available statistics from the Department of Basic Education (DBE), published in the 2015 National Education Infrastructure Management Reports (NEIMS), 818 schools in Limpopo do not have a reliable supply of electricity, and 335 do not have a reliable supply of water. Learners at over 2500 schools still use pit latrines – the same type of toilet that 6-year-old Michael Komape fell into at his rural Limpopo school, resulting in his tragic death in January 2014. The LDoE further acknowledges in its infrastructure plan that it does not know what the sanitation conditions are in two thirds of schools nor whether there is an adequate water supply in three quarters of schools.
Limpopo’s failure to implement the law
The Regulations relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (the Norms and Standards) were adopted in 2013 following years of mobilisation, campaigning and legal action by members of EE as well as other civil society groups and individuals. By 29 November 2014 each of the provincial education MECs were required to provide Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga with a plan that detailed the backlogs in school infrastructure in their province and how they would fix schools in accordance with the Norms and Standards.
By June 2015, after pressure from EE, eight provinces had made their plans publicly available – but the Limpopo LDoE had not. The first deadline for implementing the Norms and Standards is 29 November 2016. By this date, all schools without water, electricity or sanitation will have to be provided with these services, and all schools made entirely of mud, wood and asbestos will need to be rebuilt. As the clock ticked, EE and the EELC continued to engage the DBE and LDoE on the failure to publish a plan.
On 7 October 2015 EE members picketed at the LDoE, demanding the release of the plans and implementation of the law. It became worryingly clear, from a meeting held between EE’s leadership and Limpopo Education MEC, Ishmael Kgetjepe, that the department was unaware of the requirements and timeframes for fixing schools under the infrastructure law.
Sustained activism yielded progress when, in November 2015, the LDoE released its Norms and Standards implementation plan.
Limpopo’s plans for school infrastructure are inadequate
Having now reviewed the LDoE’s plan, EE and the EELC have serious concerns. Given the looming 29 November deadline, the problems in the planning documents of Limpopo – as well as those of the other provinces – are highly concerning.
The problems with Limpopo’s plan include but are not limited to:
1. A lack of reliable and complete information
The Limpopo plan is based on incomplete and unreliable information regarding the nature and extent of school infrastructure backlogs to be addressed. The plan states that currently, in respect of 75% of the schools in the province, it is not clear whether there is adequate or any water available to learners, and that in respect of two thirds of the province’s schools it is not clear what ablution facilities are available.
2. Planning to fail
The Limpopo plan states repeatedly that it will not meet the first deadline for infrastructure implementation. It even states that it will fail to meet the final, 2030 deadlines stipulated by the Norms and Standards. Limpopo’s plan is replete with references anticipating non-compliance with legally binding targets. This is unacceptable.
Limpopo’s justification for failure to meet the Norms and Standards targets is that there is not enough money. Despite the Norms and Standards creating new obligations to fix school infrastructure, the Education Infrastructure Grant has shrunk. What is further evident is that Limpopo contributes absolutely nothing of its equitable share (from the national fiscus) towards school infrastructure, despite the province having the discretion to divide the equitable share as it chooses. This highlights a frightening lack of political will to ensure that learners have access to proper schools.
The LDoE plan speaks to numerous commitments for upgrading school infrastructure through to 2018/2019, but it appears the province is going about “business as usual” by implementing school upgrades in a few schools each year without regard for the three distinct deadlines specified by the Norms and Standards for different infrastructure items.
For example, the plan focuses on water supply and sanitation, but neglects electricity and the replacement of schools built of inappropriate materials.
Ultimately, Limpopo has failed to provide concrete indicators with which the public can hold their provincial education department to account.
EE and the EELC demand the release of provincial implementation reports
The DBE must ultimately ensure that provinces understand their planning and implementation obligations under the Norms and Standards, and that they are proceeding in a way that promotes transparency and accountability. The delay of six months in the publication of the first eight provincial plans, and the one year delay in publishing the Limpopo plan, is a breach of the principle of accountability, and cannot happen again. The fact that the provinces’ planning has been largely inadequate, only adds to the delays, giving communities and civil society less time to voice their concerns before the Norms and Standards deadlines pass.
The Norms and Standards require that the provincial Education MECs send Minister Motshekga an updated plan and progress report by 29 November of every year. The report must set out the work completed to comply with the deadlines, the remaining backlogs in the province, and a costed plan to address remaining infrastructure needs in line with the Norms and Standards time frames. EE has written to Minister Motshekga requesting sight of the reports which were due at the end of November 2015. Our hope is that the reports address the numerous shortcomings in the planning of all nine provinces.
The capacity of the State to ensure learners realise their fundamental rights, and the ability of communities to hold government to account, depends on the progress reports being made public.
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