Pit latrines and classroom shortages have been the reality of many schools in South Africa. The department of basic education has failed to meet yet another deadline to improve schools and this has upset Equal Education.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga signed the Norms and Standards for Public school infrastructure law in 2013. This was after years of campaigning done by Equal Education.
"According to the Norms and Standards, all schools should have been provided with enough classrooms, electricity, water, and toilets, and with fences, telephones and internet by 29 November 2020." said Equal Education in a statement.
Now that the deadline has passed, it has become evident that the Department of Basic Education has not improved infrastructure in all schools.
Even though there has been improvement in some schools, Equal Education feels that schools of the black working class and schools in rural communities have been left behind.
"At Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre, we're concerned that there simply has not been a commitment from the Department of Education to meet their own deadline to ensure that we have adequate infrastructure for our learners in our schools in South Africa" said Tshego Phala from the Equal Education Law Centre.
The next deadline is set for 2021 and Equal Education wants the national department and provincial departments to put a plan in place for meeting the deadlines in 2023.
Phala said the department also needs to have a proper budget for infrastructural plans.
"During the Covid period and over the last few months we've seen a decrease in the education budget despite the fact that we're not meeting our deadlines. We sit with schools in KZN and in Limpopo where we still have pit latrines, despite the fact that pit latrine deadline was in 2016," she said.
Equal Education believes the budget cuts undermine the education sector and this compromises the right to basic education.
The Budget cuts have affected infrastructure plans, leaving schools with little to no money for textbooks and school furniture.
"The state of public education in this country is not one that is acceptable because the DBE has been missing deadlines. In 2016 we were supposed to have eradicated pit latrines, mud schools and schools that are made of improper infrastructure," said Chwayita Wenana, Deputy Head of EE Western Cape.
Equal Education is calling for Minister Motshekga and all provincial education MECs to follow through on the Norms and Standards for Public school infrastructure.
This will not only make the lives of learners better, but it will also make schools better environments for teachers to do their jobs well.