OPINION

Education depts failing to produce crucial info – Equal Education

Organisation condemns lax attitude towards its PAIA requests

Equal Education media statement: Provincial school infrastructure reports reveal education departments can’t properly plan, meanwhile the 2018 reports are still owed

27 March 2019

In response to a Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) request from Equal Education (EE), to get access to the 2018 provincial school infrastructure implementation plans and the provincial school infrastructure progress reports, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has granted itself a 30-day extension to get the information from provincial education departments - even though the documents ought to have been finalised and made public last year!

This lax attitude - a failure to fulfil the most basic duties - is why schools are not repaired and replaced with the urgency demanded. It is incomprehensible that provincial education departments are unable to timeously and properly report on what they have delivered or how they plan to meet the Norms and Standards deadline.  This blatant disregard to undertake the needed planning amounts to a trampling of learners rights to education, dignity and safety.

Read the DBE’s response to our PAIA request here.

The  #FixTheNorms court judgment ordered Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to make the reports and plans public to ensure that learners, teachers and parents can hold government accountable for infrastructure delivery.

The 2017 reports and plans are the latest available, and reveal that:

- Provincial and national government’s data on school infrastructure continues to be inconsistent  - with serious consequences for the schools who fall between the cracks. In some cases reports even contain clearly contradicting information;

- Provincial education departments hurriedly blame other government departments and entities for failing to provide school infrastructure, but the #FixTheNorms court judgment declared this escape clause to be inconsistent with the Constitution and the South African Schools Act and thus “unlawful” and “invalid”;

- Provincial education departments submit reports to the DBE that are missing crucial information and do not adhere to a standard reporting template - making it difficult to understand the documents and to hold them accountable;

- Having already missed the first Norms and Standards deadline of 29 November 2016, government is set to miss the second deadline of 29 November 2020;

The 2017 reports are available here on the DBE website.

In terms of subsections 4(6) and 4(7) of the Regulations relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure, provincial education MECs are required to submit two kinds of information to Basic Education Minister Motshekga every year:

- Annual plans for implementation of the regulations, including detailed backlog analysis, costed short-, medium- and long-term plans, details on provision and maintenance of infrastructure, and proposals on procurement, implementation and monitoring; and

- Annual reports on the implementation of these plans.

Limpopo

- True to form, the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) submitted its 2017 progress and planning report to the DBE months late - in June 2018. The LDoE was unable to compile information on the state of its schools, and contracted the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to do so.

- The LDoE underspent its overall infrastructure development budget every year from 2011/12 to 2017/18. In 2012/13 the under expenditure amounted to R377.6 million and in 2016/17 it amounted to R66.5 million.

- The data in the report - on pit latrines, water, and electricity - clashes with the data provided by the DBE in the National Education Information Management System (NEIMS) Report.

- The report does not provide infrastructure plans and implementation information per school (no project lists, no targets, and no budget breakdowns).

Western Cape:

- The report available here largely documents what has been delivered (progress) and does not at all speak to plans that are in the pipeline, or the costing of those plans.

- Schools made entirely or largely of inappropriate materials (such as asbestos) will only by eradicated by 2027 - the legally binding deadline stipulated by the Norms and Standards is 2016!

- The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) explicitly excludes schools built on private property from infrastructure upgrades (farm schools such as Grootkraal Primary) .

Note: the WCED progress report must be read alongside the document Strategy for the elimination of public school infrastructure backlogs in the Western Cape.

Eastern Cape:

- The Eastern Cape Department of Education’s (ECDoE) report reveals that a year after the deadline by which plain pit latrines ought to have been eradicated, there were still 2 127 Eastern Cape schools with access to only plain pit latrines.

- A large number of schools have been excluded from the ECDoE’s list of backlogs because they are set to be closed as part of the province’s school rationalisation process. However, there is no certainty as to when these schools will actually be closed and exactly what interim measures are in place to address the crisis conditions.

- The inaccuracy of infrastructure data remains a problem. National and provincial data on infrastructure backlogs differ and the report acknowledges that some re-assessments have revealed errors in previous data capturing processes.

- The ECDoE argues that it is failing to meet the Norms and Standards deadlines due to budget shortages and that it will need R70 billion to meet all the Norms and Standards targets. However, the absence of a detailed breakdown of how these figures were calculated makes it hard for the public to properly interrogate these claims.

- While the progress report has been made publicly available, all the annexures - which contain the bulk of the data - are missing. This is plainly insulting to the school communities and the broader public who must make sense of the reports.

KwaZulu-Natal

- In its report the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department (KZNDoE) admits that there are still 1 377 schools with plain pit latrines – which according to the law are illegal! The report states that these plain pit latrines will only be eradicated by 2020/21.

- The report goes on to admit that there were still 115 schools in the province without electricity   – also in violation of the Norms and Standards. It claims that these schools should have been provided with electricity in 2018/19.

- The department does not provide detailed plans – including budgets – to explain how it will address all infrastructure backlogs going forward.

- The province has declared some schools as “unviable” and needing to be closed. But it is unclear what the timelines are for closures, or the criteria used to determine which schools should be closed.

Gauteng:

- The report says that there are 29 schools made entirely of asbestos in the province. Of those, the last ten will be rebuilt only after 2023! The deadline to eradicate and replace schools made of inappropriate material was 2016!

- On overcrowding, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) admits that it will not be able to meet the 2020 Norms and Standards deadline to provide an adequate supply of classrooms. The report states that a total of 2 963 classrooms will need to be built to address this challenge.

- The GDE’s document is nonsensical in parts. It states that the GDE has “provided all schools with some form of basic services (water, sanitation, electricity) [but] there are instances where these services are not available at schools”. We can only assume that this means the infrastructure exists (reticulation, electrical installations, etc) but that there are schools without water in the taps and sockets without electricity.

In addition to the provincial school infrastructure implementation plans and the provincial school infrastructure progress reports, Minister Motshekga still owes learners, teachers, communities and the broader public the following: a revised plan to fix school toilets in Limpopo that includes emergency interim measures to protect learners from dangerous plain pit latrines; SAFE Initiative reports which explain how funding is disbursed and provide details of construction at each school site; and the 2019 National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) report.

We will not stop demanding better of provincial and national government, #FixOurSchools now!

Issued by Leanne Jansen Thomas, EE Head of Communications, 27 March 2019