Equal Education wins infrastructure court battle

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PORT ELIZABETH, July 19 – NGO Equal Education won a protracted battle in the Bisho High Court on Thursday against the Minister of Basic Education regarding norms and standards for school infrastructure.

The court order now will ensure that the country’s law on school infrastructure will be enforced and there will be no more excuses for failure by the nine provinces to comply with the deadlines set for providing essential infrastructure at schools.

According to court papers, the court ordered that all schools and classrooms built from mud and other inappropriate materials must be replaced in accordance with the national building regulations, as well as occupational health and safety regulations.

The Department of Education will now be forced to comply with its norms and standards in that schools without water, electricity and sanitation be provided for.

The norms and standards outlaw pit toilets at schools eradicate mud and other structures serving as schools and insist that all schools must have access to water and electricity.

The court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the regulations not to provide for plans and reports to be made public and ordered that this be amended by the Minister of Basic Education.

For several years, Equal Education members have campaigned for the adoption of norms and standards for school infrastructure as set out by the Department of Basic Education in November 2013.

The regulations set a deadline for the replacement of unsafe structures at schools, as well as the provision of basic levels of water, sanitation and electricity in schools by November 2016.

But the department didn’t meet the deadline and so the organisation took the matter to court.

The case, heard earlier this year, sought to ensure that the government properly commits to meeting its own targets and deadlines for the provision of proper school infrastructure.

In March, Lumka Mkhethwa drowned in a school’s pit latrine. The five-year-old’s body was found inside the latrine in Bizana in the Eastern Cape, a day after she had gone missing.

In another incident, five-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School, outside Polokwane, four years ago.

– African News Agency (ANA)