FORMER provincial education boss Modidima Mannya has come out in full support of a high court application by two dilapidated schools to force Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to declare minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure as binding.
In a forthright affidavit, Mannya spoke of his shame at the humiliation pupils and teachers at dilapidated schools suffered while he was superintendent-general.
He said he had been forced to relieve himself in the bushes while visiting some schools because of the lack of toilet facilities. He had also suffered terrible stomach cramps after drinking water at one school.
“This is the daily experience of learners and teachers at these schools,” he said. “In my opinion, the failure to provide, on a consistent basis, adequate infrastructure for effective teaching and learning is directly attributable to the absence of binding and enforceable norms and standards as the basis for planning and costing of school infrastructure, and implementation of infrastructure plans.”
Mannya’s affidavit supports national NGO Equal Education (EE) and two severely damaged schools, Mwezeni Senior Primary School near Mthatha and Mkanzini Junior Secondary School in Port St Johns, in an application before the Bhisho High Court to order Motshekga to urgently promulgate regulations prescribing minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
All nine of her provincial MECs are also cited as respondents.
Assisted by the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown, EE and the two schools want the court to declare her failure to have done so to date as a breach of children’s constitutional rights to a basic education, equality and dignity and a breach of her duties under the SA Schools Act.
Mannya said officials responsible for the planning, budgeting and implementation enjoyed wide discretion in determining allocations to schools for infrastructure and how that funding was used. Without a legal basis to compel them to provide the necessary infrastructure to meet curriculum and other requirements, he had found it extremely difficult to ensure that officials provided adequate infrastructure to schools.
“In my opinion, the absence of enforceable norms and standards contributes significantly to the ongoing infrastructure problems of schools.”
Mannya, a high court advocate, said in his opinion, the minister was under a legal obligation to promulgate these norms and standards.
Motshekga is opposing the application. Her deputy director-general for planning, Shunmugam Govindasamy Padayachee, said the minister was under no legal obligation to declare uniform norms and standards.
He said she had issued guidelines on school infrastructure planning.
But the EE’s Yolanda Dwane pointed out in her answering affidavit that the guidelines were non-binding and unenforceable and provided no time- frames. “They place absolutely no obligation on the national or provincial education departments to address the infrastructure needs of schools, irrespective of how serious or harmful those conditions may be.”