Parents haul state to court

08 March 2012 - 03:05 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
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File photo
File photo
Image: Brett Steele

Pupils and parents have hauled the government to court over appalling conditions in many schools around the country.

The landmark case, brought by the NGO Equal Education and the Legal Resources Centre, lists the country's nine MECs for education, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan,Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the government as respondents.

The case was launched in the Grahamstown High Court on Friday. In court papers, Yoliswa Dwane, Equal Education's head of policy, said the organisation wanted the government to implement the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. The norms stipulate the facilities schools are required to have and also enable communities to hold the department to account.

"The problematic and fragmented nature of the education system has resulted in severe non-delivery of services, which came to a head in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape during the last year," said Dwane.

"I submit that the vast discrepancies . require nationally uniform minimum norms and standards to ensure that a basic level of adequacy and equality exists in the provision of infrastructure."

The government has 21 days to file responding papers.

Education departments in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are under administration by the national government.

Yesterday, Doron Isaacs, coordinator of Equal Education, blamed Motshekga and Gordhan for the problems. He said 3600 schools in the country have no electricity, 2400 are without clean water and 22000 have no libraries or science laboratories.

"There is tension in South Africa about the role of the judiciary and we will hear from the executive that it is not the court's place to tell the minister how to spend money," Isaacs told The Times. "We are not seeking an order from the court that says build so many schools, it's for the community to know what they are entitled to."

Activist Zackie Achmat said it was a tragedy that 11000 schools in the country still had pit latrines.

Panyaza Lesufi, spokesman for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said the lawsuit posed no threat.

"Courts are neutral places, so anyone who takes us to court will be afforded an opportunity to put their side of the story. We welcome the decision to take us to court - that's where we will put our case forward freely and fairly," he said.

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