21 January 2013

South Africa: Basic Education: Back to the Drawing Board for Infrastructure Norms and Standards

press release

The Department of Basic Education's draft regulations on minimum uniform norms and standards for schools, published in terms of a court settlement, are wholly inadequate. They do not even begin to address the objective of providing quality education for all.

The Minister has provided a draft that contains no technical information or content that can be used to hold government accountable. It lacks both short- and long-term time frames, instead making continual, vague references to 'progressive realisation'.

For example, it states that a school must have an "enabling teaching and learning environment for teaching and learning to take place" that comprises "educational spaces, education support spaces and administration spaces". It does not, however, specify what this entails.

The Minister has furthermore included a provision giving her another 18 months after the commencement of the regulations to publish a framework document. This will delay the provision of essential infrastructure and resources to schools even further.

Given the substantive information at her disposal, the Minister has no excuse for producing such a vacuous document.

According to a parliamentary reply she had received the responses to the 2008 call for comments on the National Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards (NMUNS) for school infrastructure by the beginning of last year. This draft provided detailed norms and the comments were incorporated into the document. However, a decision was taken to convert the document into Guidelines Relating to Planning for Public School Infrastructure. Guidelines are not binding, which means that the department cannot be held accountable to them.

The next stage in the process is for public comment to be provided to the Department of Basic Education by 15 March 2013. The DA will be submitting thorough and detailed comments and recommendations on the regulations.

We must ensure that the norms and standards prescribed are detailed, clear and coherent. The norms and standards should ultimately consider and address the differences in the provinces, and they should be financially sustainable, implementable and in the best interests of learners.

Annette Lovemore, Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education

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