Blog: Education

April 3, 2013

Build the Future, Fix Our Schools

Posted by Jeanne Segil, JD '14

Our partners in South Africa, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), are at a critical point in their ongoing campaign to compel the South African government to establish minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. The South African Schools Act of 1996 empowered the Minister of Basic Education to set minimum norms and standards for all schools. These regulations were never established and, as a result, many South African schools—particularly those in rural areas and townships—lack basic essentials such as running water, electricity, functioning toilets, libraries, laboratories, computer centers, and perimeter security. Binding norms and standards can help equalize the learning experience in a nation still suffering from the legacy of apartheid.

EE asked Minister Angie Motshekga to issue these regulations for years before eventually filing legal action in March 2012, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, to compel her to act. Last November, Minister Motshekga agreed to a settle the case and, as part of the settlement, to promulgate binding norms and standards. As a first step in this process, in January the Minister published Draft Minimum Norms and Standards for comment from interested parties.

Unfortunately, the draft is disappointingly vague on substance. Any school infrastructure, no matter how problematic, could meet its standards. For example, under the proposed guidelines, it could still be acceptable to have 70 students packed into a single classroom, or to provide three pit latrines and two water taps at a school of 3000 students. Equally troubling, the draft does not establish any timelines for implementation or any mechanisms for reporting or accountability.

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