This article first appeared in the 1 July 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - “Schools cant be built on empty promises”, “fix our toilets” and “no more delays”, were some of the cries from pupils, parents and education activists, outside the gates of Parliament on Thursday.
With pupils leading from the front, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) marched to Parliament over draft amendments to the Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure, by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
EE and EELC said one of the more concerning proposed changes was the removal of deadlines to fix school infrastructure. Pupils from schools in Kraaifontein, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Strand, and Delft joined the protest.
EE Western Cape organiser Papama Mabotshwa said they were assisted by a lawyer in order to understand the draft amendments, as it was not easy to read and understand.
“Maybe it’s purposefully done because they do not want the general public to easily notice these things.
“Part of the proposed amendments are indirectly running away from accountability because the current Norms and Standards are clear in terms of deadlines,” Mabotshwa said
Khayelitsha parent, Tenjiwe Makupula said: “If you look at that school where that child died in a pit latrine, it’s still the same, there are no changes. We want a school like the former model C schools, a school that has everything, like a laboratory and library.”
Luhlaza High School pupil Tisetso Monaheng, 18, said the government failed to prioritise the education of black children and public schools.
“We have schools here in Khayelitsha that don’t have libraries. Look at other schools in Limpopo, in KZN, in the Eastern Cape, we have toilets that are pit latrines. Put yourself in those pupils’ shoes – what if it was your child in a situation like that and using toilets like that?” Monaheng said.
“We don’t have enough textbooks. We will continue to complain because it is going to affect my younger brother that’s coming after me, it’s going to affect generations coming,” Monaheng said.
Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa (FESJA) deputy chairperson Hendrik Makaneta said the proposed amendments would make it easier for the government to avoid court orders.
“Scrapping of deadlines is in the interest of the Cabinet, it disempowers NGOs, as they will be left without an instrument that they can use to litigate against the state,” Makaneta said.
EE and EELC has called on the public to make submissions to the DBE at [email protected] by July 10, 2022, on the challenges identified with the proposed changes.