New norms and standards for school infrastructure in South Africa

Just days prior to a court case concerning the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, brought by the NGO Equal Education (EE), Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga conceded and made a commitment to the promulgation of new laws relating to the matter.

EE chairperson Yoliswa Dwane made a statement that an out-of-court settlement had been arrived at with Motshekga which would make certain that the norms and standards were made available for public comment no later than the 15 January 2013 and would be finalised within 3 months.

All MECs of education in all provinces including Minister of Finance chose not to appose the court case and the Equal Education has welcomed the step taken by Minister Motshekga.



Campaign for equality

Equal Education views the decision taken by the minister and MECs as a small triumph in the struggle to realize equality education for South Africa’s poor.

The norms and standards advocate the minimum conditions that need to be set up so that a school can function normally, regardless of locality of the school or even the number of pupils and / or teachers. A few of the prerequisites submitted by Equal Education comprise of basic services including water, electricity, sanitation, functioning libraries and science laboratories.

In 2007 there was an amendment to the National Schools Act which granted powers to the education minister to adopt the norms and standards. This, consequently, resulted in the adoption by Motshekga of the National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment in June 2010.

In accordance with the policy, the minister was required to promulgate the regulations by March 2011. This was never carried out which unfortunately resulted in Equal Education taking the minister to court and a waste of money which could have been utilized in far better ways to promote equal education.


Reason to celebrate

Dwane praised all Equal Education members for their perseverance and effort, whom she pointed out “marched, fasted, slept outside parliament and studied long and hard to understand the issues”.

This is not merely a victory for education for all South Africans but in addition for legal team represented by the Cameron McConnachie of the Legal Resources Centre.

Brad Brockman, the general secretary of the NGO, pointed out the fact that the norms and standards took an abstract right to basic education and made it concrete when it comes to infrastructure.

“Citizens will be able to appreciate that they are entitled to water and electricity in their schools, and thereafter to libraries and computer centres.”



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