Legal challenge to education bungles
Litigation against the Basic Education Department over appalling conditions at schools, and administrative bungles, has mushroomed.
The latest legal challenge will be launched by two civil rights groups - the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa and the Public Participation in Education Network - in the Constitutional Court this year.
The groups will apply for a supervision order that would compel the authorities to report regularly to the court on their progress in promoting, protecting and fulfilling citizens' rights to a basic education.
Elise Burns-Hoffman, CEO of the Institute for Accountability, said a recent World Economic Forum global competitiveness report said South Africa's education system was among the world's worst 10.
"If this does not result in the realisation by every citizen in this country that our education system is spiraling out of control, the inclusion in the criteria of a failed state of the inability to provide basic public services, such as healthcare and education, ought to drive the point home," said Burns-Hoffman.
If the order is granted, it will require the state to tackle issues such as poor use of financial resources, the absence of library facilities in more than 90% of public schools, the absence of sanitation and water, schooling under trees, and drug dealing and use at schools.
The announcement was after a class action instituted by the non-profit organisation Equal Education, in the Bhisho High Court.
The group wants to force the government to comply with the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
The organisation painted a grim picture of conditions at schools. Statistics it quoted include:
- 3600 schools have no electricity;
- 2400 schools do not have clean water on tap;
- 22000 have no library or science laboratories; and
- 11000 schools still use pit latrines.
The organisation highlighted the plight of Samson Senior Primary School, in Eastern Cape, where pupils relieve themselves in a field because the toilets are a "health hazard".
The nearest tap supplying clean water is 5km away.
Panyaza Lesufi, spokesman for Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, said: "We will be the first ones to be worried if education gets off the rails and no one raises a finger or their voice to say: 'You're taking education off the rails'.
"This is because communities are our conscience. We rely on communities to determine the route that we are taking," said Lesufi.
"We are not going to stress and have sleepless nights because people are taking us to court.
"We welcome this as a way of ensuring that we collectively, as a society, safeguard the quality of our education and ensure that education remains a fundamental right for all our children." - Additional reporting by Nashira Davids