Loophole with proposed school infrastructure legislation changes allow DBE and Minister to avoid accountability

Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

The DA rejects the proposed amendments by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to the education sector’s infrastructure laws. We will write to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to request the retaining of the reporting requirements. We will also request that the parliamentary portfolio committee for basic education summon the Minister and her Department to Parliament to account for their attempts to obfuscate the regulatory mechanisms through which authorities are supposed to be held to account.

In 2018, the court ordered Minster Motshekga to address numerous gaps and shortcomings in the regulations for the norms and standards for the Public School Infrastructure Act she adopted in 2013.

The purpose of the act was to generate an environment that is conducive to high quality teaching and learning. The regulations state that every public school must have access to water, electricity, ablution facilities, security, and internet. They also require schools to have libraries, science laboratories, and areas for physical education.

However, the draft amendments proposed by DBE fails to address the shortcomings in the education sector’s infrastructure law. In fact, the proposed amendments will only serve to aid the Department and officials in their pursuit to avoid accountability.

One of the major concerns is that the amendments would remove guidance regarding important details that should be included in annual provincial performance reports. Regulations 4(6) and 4(7), which included very specific reporting requirements, were declared unconstitutional in the 2018 court case, but only in so far as not providing for the publication of provinces’ annual reports. In the proposed amendments, provision is made for the publication of reports, but the new reporting requirements loses specificity.

The ‘old’ regulations also contained an itemized list, which is very valuable in holding all provinces to account, and ensured coherency across provinces. Without these guidelines, there would be no guarantee that the information included in any of these reports will be helpful for communities and school governing bodies to verify whether actual progress is being made.

The removal of these regulations is a regressive step and reeks of another shameful attempt to consolidate power within the central authority that is the governing party.

We call on all educational experts, educational institutions, educational activists, and concerned stakeholders throughout South Africa to submit their comments on the proposed amendments to mafoko.r@dbe.gov.za or the Department of Basic Education, Private Bag X895, Pretoria 0001, before 31 July 2022.

The DBE should focus on creating conducive learning environments, especially for learners from poor and rural backgrounds. Learning environments have a huge impact on performance and learner dropout. The DA will not allow our schools to be used as a tool by an uncaring ANC government that continues fail to get rid of pit toilets and dilapidated mud/asbestos infrastructure.