Before we build libraries and labs, let’s sort out school loos
A very bleak picture of progress made towards meeting the minimum norms for public school infrastructure
Millions of pupils attending public schools in SA will be forced to continue studying without the benefit of a library or science and computer lab.
The latest reports compiled by provincial education departments, which outline the progress made towards meeting the minimum norms for public school infrastructure, paint a very bleak picture.
Roné McFarlane, the co-head of research at Equal Education, a movement working for quality and equality in SA education, said the Department of Basic Education had already missed the 2016 deadline by which time schools were to have access to basic services.“They have put themselves on track to miss every subsequent deadline.”
She said that President Cyril Ramaphosa had set 2030 as the deadline for the eradication of pit latrine toilets.
“If it’s going to take us until 2030 just to sort out the sanitation problem, how long is it going to take us to get to all the more complex aspects of the norms and standards, for example, an adequate supply of classrooms, libraries, laboratories and sportsfields?”
McFarlane said they had not finalised their analysis of the provincial education departments’ progress reports on infrastructure and would make a more comprehensive comment once that was done.According to the regulations for minimum uniform norms and standards for infrastructure, which was published on November 29 2013, provincial education departments had to ensure that all schools had libraries as well as science and computer laboratories by 2023.
But it is highly unlikely this target will be met.
In the North West, for example, only 11 of the 898 libraries needed at schools were built between 2014 and last year, while only 102 of the 1,055 science laboratories required were built over the same period.
The province’s projected budget for the construction of the 898 libraries is R538.8m and a further R211m is needed for the science laboratories.
According to the North West report, which was signed by the superintendent-general of education, Stephinah Semaswe, the department also needed R841.2m for 701 computer labs, of which only 10 were completed between 2014 and last year.
Her department is expecting to build a further eight during the current financial year.Semaswe said one of the challenges in meeting the target was that most schools were built by the community and needed replacement “which had a huge impact on budget”.
In the Free State, 413 libraries, 367 science laboratories and 380 computer labs are required. According to the report submitted by Mpumalanga’s education department, which was signed by Mahlasedi Mhlabane, it needed R43.3bn to eradicate its school infrastructure backlog.
“With the current budget of R1.1bn, the department is not in a position to eradicate the backlog by 2030,” the report stated. It needed R2.2bn just to cover its sanitation backlog as there were still 127 schools with pit latrine toilets which were “in both good and dilapidated states”.
Among the challenges in meeting targets was the late appointment of service providers, as well as poor project and construction management practices by the implementing agents.
Meanwhile, Limpopo education superintendent-general Beauty Mutheiwana stated in her report that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), while conducting a “condition assessment” of 4,480 schools in the province, had identified 801 schools that had been built with inappropriate materials.
“The eradication process will be implemented based on budget availability,” she stated. The CSIR investigation found that 6,819 new classsrooms and 4,873 Grade R classrooms had to be built and 1,969 mobile classrooms had to be replaced at a cost of almost R8.9bn.
A further R2.4bn was needed to build 40,813 toilets and 8,227 toilets for Grade R pupils.
The superintendent-general of the Western Cape education department, Brian Schreuder, said in his report that 42 of the 98 schools considered to be “inappropriate structures” had been replaced with new schools while a further seven were in various stages of construction and 20 were in the planning stage.He said that the remaining 29 were expected to be completed by 2027.
KwaZulu-Natal required a massive R4.3bn to replace all pit toilets and to demolish existing ones which were mostly found at schools in deep rural areas such as Umkhanyakude, Zululand, King Cetshwayo, Umzinyathi, Uthukela and Ugu.
Gauteng superintendent-general of education Edward Mosuwe said a new school to replace one of the 29 that were built out of asbestos had been built in the past financial year. A further 18 schools are expected to be completed in the current medium term expenditure framework while the remaining 10 will be completed after the 2022/23 financial year. At least 4,103 more classrooms were needed in Gauteng to ease overcrowding.