South Africa: Eastern Cape Learners Demand Basic Infrastructure for Schools

18 October 2019

More than 200 learners from different public schools in King William's Town marched to the Eastern Cape Department of Education offices in Zwelitsha on Thursday. The marchers, led by Equal Education, demanded that the department release its progress report on reaching norms and standards for school infrastructure.

In November 2016 the department failed to meet its deadline to ensure that school structures are made of appropriate materials - not mud, asbestos, metal or wood - and that all schools have water, electricity and toilets.

The new deadline is 29 November 2020, but the protesting learners say progress has been very slow and they fear the department will not achieve the deadline.

Charles Morgan School student leader Yolanda Nazo said the school received temporary toilets after learners protested outside the department in June. It was meant to be for two months while the department fixed the blocked flushed toilets at the school. This never happened according to Nazo.

"Those toilets cost the department ... . that money should have been used to fix the blocked toilets at school," said Nazo.

Lihle Kolosi of Thembalabantu Senior Secondary School in Zwelitsha said her school is short of classrooms and furniture. Lithalethu Valisi from Zanempucuko High School said at their school parents donated building materials, but the school lacked toilets and water.

Equal Education resubmitted four memorandums it had previously submitted between 2015 and 2018. The memorandums were handed to Monde Sangqu, Director Stakeholder Management, who promised to pass them on to MEC Fundile Gade.

Spokesperson for the department Malibongwe Mtima said: "The backlog report will be properly announced at the time all data has been verified in time for the report for the November 2020 anniversary and annually as required."

He said the department "values the engagement with Equal Education". Mtima quoted severe budgetary restrictions. He said the province had a sanitation backlog requiring R2.5 billion alone.

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