Parliament commits to making final decision on changing the Constitution to better protect learners’ rights, before the end of this year
12 November 2020
Yesterday, Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) committed to, by the end of this year, decide whether or not to support Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre’s (EELC) submission that Section 100 of the Constitution should be changed, to better protect learners’ rights. Section 100 of the Constitution allows national government to intervene in the running of a province if service delivery has broken down in the province.
In 2016, EE and the EELC made a joint written submission to the CRC, a committee responsible for making decisions about changes to the Constitution. Our submission aimed to solve a worrying trend - that national interventions in provincial departments were failing to correct poor service delivery.
The problems with national interventions were first brought to EE and the EELC’s attention in the Eastern Cape. In March 2011, the national government started an intervention in the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) to fix long standing problems such as poor school infrastructure and a shortage of teachers. Five years later, when we made our 2016 submission, there had been little improvement.
There was also confusion about the intervention among government officials - ECDOE officials claimed that the intervention was relaxed in 2016, but Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga then publicly said that it was still in full force.
Despite the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) having a special responsibility to oversee Section 100 interventions and to review them regularly, the NCOP’s Select Committee on Education and Recreation failed in its responsibility to oversee the Eastern Cape intervention.
In 2018, the national government also intervened in ten of the North West’s provincial departments, including education. Much like in the Eastern Cape, the Section 100 intervention in the North West has important problems, including not enough transparency from the national task team running the intervention, confusion about who is actually in charge of the day to day running of provincial departments, and very little information on progress being available to the public.
For these reasons, our submission to the Constitutional Review Committee argued that learners’ rights would be better protected if Section 100 is changed to require more strict oversight from Parliament, and to specifically say that laws must be developed to clearly and carefully manage the intervention process. Our submission also proposed that a section be written into Section 100 to place the responsibility on the national government to report at least every quarter to the NCOP, on the progress achieved with these interventions and the challenges with implementation.
If there had been proper oversight of the Eastern Cape intervention, some of the consequences for learners - overcrowded classrooms, textbook shortages, unsafe school buildings, and walking long distances to school - could have been prevented.
Yesterday, EE and EELC had a chance to present our submission to the CRC. Following the presentation, the committee resolved to consider the recommendations that it received and make a final decision on whether to accept the proposed changes to the Constitution at a future meeting. The committee co-chair, MatholeMotshekga, emphasised that the committee takes this task seriously and is committed to making a final decision before the end of this year.
Yesterday’s meeting follows on from the committee’s March 2019 meeting, where the CRC said that it was “in favour of a slight amendment to Section 100 to give it clarity and effect”. This resolution was made at the end of the term of the previous Parliament, meaning that the CRC decided that the responsibility to implement the changes should be handed over to the new, current Parliament.
We look forward to the committee adopting our proposed amendments.
Issued by Jay-Dee Cyster, Communications Officer Equal Education, 12 November 2020