Equal Education claimed a long-awaited victory for the pupils of Vukile Tshwete Secondary School in Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape, as construction for brand new premises started.
"Construction of the new site of Vukile Tshwete Secondary School in the Eastern Cape has finally started, owing to five years of sustained pressure from [Equal Education] members," spokesperson Leanne Jansen-Thomas said on Tuesday.
"We will continue to monitor the building of Vukile Tshwete Secondary to ensure that Coega and the [Eastern Cape department of education] fulfill their duties."
"Equalisers [Equal Education supporters] and other members celebrate this progress, and we will continue to take to the streets for decent school infrastructure for the learners of Qobo Qobo and South Africa."
The organisations said five years of pickets, marches, night vigils, and relentlessly pursuing regular meetings with the Coega Development Corporation and the department for a decent school, led to construction finally being on track.
Equal Education said the current school building is mostly precarious wood structures, and the school's electricity supply is limited to the administration office.
It said the sanitation facilities are ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines for teachers, and plain pit latrines for learners.
However, plain pit latrines are banned by the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure law.
Equal Education's timeline of getting to constructing a new school:
May 2015: Over 2 000 Equal Education members and supporters marched to the department to demand the full implementation of the Norms and Standards for schools including Vukile Tshwete Secondary.
April 2016: Thousands of Equalisers and other pupils marched to the department to demand safe classrooms.
November 2016: Equal Education members and staff investigated the state of infrastructure at 60 schools in the Eastern Cape, including Vukile Tshwete Secondary. A detailed report was handed to the department.
April 2017: Equalisers marched to the offices again to demand that the schools highlighted in their November report received urgent attention, and that there be better oversight of school infrastructure implementing agents such as Coega.
October 2017: Equal Education picketed outside the Port Elizabeth and East London offices of Coega to demand accountability as the school infrastructure implementing agent responsible for rebuilding Vukile Tshwete Secondary.
November 2017: An evening vigil was held at Vukile Tshwete Secondary to remind government and the public of what schools are legally entitled to according to the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure law.
October 2018: Equal Education concluded two years of research into the factors that delay school construction work, and released a report explaining the role of implementing agents - the entities that use public funds to build schools on behalf of government.
December 2018: The department committed to implementing recommendations in Equal Education's new school infrastructure report on implementing agents. Coega stated that a contractor was appointed to rebuild Vukile Tshwete Secondary, and construction began in January 2019 but was halted in February due to a dispute with contractors.
March 2019: At the quarterly meeting between Equal Education and the department, the organisation informed the department that it would take radical action if the problems delaying construction of Vukile Tshwete Secondary were not resolved by April 27.
April 2019: Equal Education has a meeting with department head Themba Kojana, Vukile Tshwete Secondary, and saw for themselves that construction had finally started.
"It is an indictment on the Eastern Cape government and the national government that it has taken five years for the rebuilding of this school to begin," said Equal Education.
"We will continue to monitor the building of Vukile Tshwete Secondary, to ensure that Coega and the ECDOE fulfill their duties."
Comment from the department was not immediately available.