Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment loses ap­peal

ConCourt’s school in­fra­struc­ture rul­ing

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - THAMI MAGUBANE | thami.magubane@inl.co.za

THE Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion’s ap­peal against a judg­ment that com­pels it to pro­vide timely in­fra­struc­ture to schools has been dis­missed by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.

The Bhisho High Court had found loop­holes in the reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the pro­vi­sion of norms and stan­dards to schools.

The court ruled in July that some of the reg­u­la­tions were in­con­sis­tent with the constitution, while oth­ers were in­valid and had loop­holes that al­lowed for ex­tended de­lays in the pro­vi­sion of in­fra­struc­ture.

NGO Equal Ed­u­ca­tion had taken the depart­ment to court and was joined by an­other NGO, Sec­tion 27, as a friend of the court.

Norms and stan­dards refers to the pro­vi­sion of wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and elec­tric­ity among other things as part of school in­fra­struc­ture.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court con­cluded that leave to ap­peal be dis­missed with costs as it had no prospect of suc­cess.

Daniel Linde, from the Equal Ed­u­ca­tion Law Cen­tre, said: “The High Court ruled in our favour in the #FixTheNorms court case, in­clud­ing en­sur­ing the gov­ern­ment can­not in­def­i­nitely de­lay fix­ing un­safe and in­ad­e­quate school in­fra­struc­ture and this judg­ment was af­firmed by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.”

He said one of the big­gest loop­holes iden­ti­fied was that in­fra­struc­ture stan­dards could be met only if co-op­er­a­tion and re­sources were forth­com­ing from other gov­ern­ment agen­cies and en­ti­ties re­spon­si­ble for school in­fra­struc­ture, which im­plied that if one depart­ment failed to de­liver on its man­date, the pupils would con­tinue to suf­fer.

“We never wanted to go the court route, but we have tried to en­gage with them un­suc­cess­fully. Dead­lines to pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture have been missed and an­other to en­sure that all schools have proper san­i­ta­tion and elec­tric­ity is com­ing up in 2020.”

He said the Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment left the depart­ment with no op­tion but to com­ply.

“One of the key is­sues con­firmed by this judg­ment is that all pro­vin­cial de­part­ments must pro­duce plans for their in­fra­struc­ture and make th­ese pub­lic,” he said.

Zuk­iswa Pikoli of Sec­tion 27 said: “The judg­ment af­firmed that gov­ern­ment has an un­equiv­o­cal obli­ga­tion to pro­vide safe and ad­e­quate school in­fra­struc­ture as a cru­cial part of the right to ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.”

Spokesper­son and me­dia li­ai­son of­fi­cer for the Min­istry of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Troy Martens said the depart­ment was study­ing the judg­ment.

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