Deadline extended for public to comment on controversial education regulations

Schools with inadequate and unsafe sanitation are scheduled to receive appropriate toilets next year, says government

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Photo of school in dilapidated state

A learner in a class in Zanokhanyo Junior Secondary School in Butterworth, Eastern Cape. In July 2019 parents shut down the school because it was falling down. Archive photo: Sababaliwe Dadaboshe

The Department of Basic Education has extended the closing date for submissions on the amendments to the minimum norms and standards for public school infrastructure to 31 July.

The decision comes after Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) wrote a letter to the department condemning its proposed changes to the department’s Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure regulations.

Under these new draft amendments, the deadlines for when the government must eradicate pit latrines and provide basic services like water, electricity, and classrooms have been removed. This has angered education activists who are concerned it is a way for the department to avoid implementing these services indefinitely.

The department said the proposed amendments were made after consultations with the Minister of Finance and the provincial education ministers earlier this year.

On Wednesday, EE and EELC alongside SECTION27, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre, Centre for Child Law and the Children’s Institute sent another letter to the department urging it to extend the closing date for public submissions on its “drastic proposed changes” to the infrastructure regulations. The deadline was initially set for 10 July.

On Thursday, the activist groups also protested outside Parliament and condemned the department for failing to publish the document on its website and social media platforms to make the public aware of its proposed changes.

Meanwhile, the education department said it has made “great strides” in its efforts to provide appropriate sanitation facilities for schools in the country.

The Sanitation Appropriate For Education (SAFE) initiative was launched in 2018 by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and targets schools where sanitation is inadequate or unsafe.

There are currently 3,407 schools on this programme, and sanitation projects at 2,006 of these schools have progressed to “practical completion” and provided a full set of appropriate toilets at the schools, the department said in a statement.

The sanitation projects at the remaining schools are scheduled to be completed in 2022/23, the statement read.

TOPICS:  Education

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