Equal Education pickets outside Eastern Cape legislature over bad state of schools

Port Elizabeth – Members of Equal Education (EE) held a picket outside the Eastern Cape legislature in Bhisho on Thursday "to draw the attention" of government to the bad state of the schools in the province.

Amanda Rinquest, EE deputy head in the province, told News24 that another aim of the picket, that took place at 09:30 on Thursday, was to request the legislature’s Education Portfolio Committee to allow them to present the findings of their "Planning to Fail" report on the state of Eastern Cape schools.

"Part of the picket was to ask the MPLs to allow us to present the findings of our Planning to Fail report,” Rinquest said.

EE also called for the members of the provincial legislature to exercise their oversight role in the province to monitor the delivery of school infrastructure, she said.

The picket included a photo exhibition from the Nyamazela Eastern Cape Learner Photo Exhibition, prepared by a group of "Equalisers" from EE.

They captured images that inspired them to fight for change - almost all which are infrastructure related - in their schools, she said.

"The storytellers illuminate the lived experiences of learners and teachers in the Eastern Cape who strive for academic success in environments that reflect historically entrenched inequalities," said Rinquest.

'Shocking findings'

She said the exhibition was made last year, in preparation for the November 29 deadline for the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. By that date all public schools should have had access to water, electricity, sanitation, and have been made from appropriate materials (not mud, wood, asbestos, or zinc). 

She said that, last November, they had visited 60 schools in seven school districts to investigate governments' compliance with the Norms and Standards. 

"The research report which emanates from those visits, on school infrastructure, Planning to Fail, outlines our shocking findings and the systemic issues in Eastern Cape Education," Rinquest said.

Out of the 60 schools, 17 were in violation of the three-year deadline of the Norms and Standards, she said.

"The other 43 also had infrastructure needs which deserve the attention of the state," Rinquest said.

She said 42 of the schools had access to water only through rainwater harvesting.

"Four schools had no electricity whatsoever. Five schools had no working toilets. At one school, one working toilet was shared by 294 people," she said. 

The report addresses what EE believes to be a number of systematic failures within the Eastern Cape education department, Rinquest said.

'Systematic failures of the executive'

She said in May this year, they were given the opportunity to present the findings of the report to the head of department (HOD) of the province’s education department, as well as members of the Infrastructure Directorate. 

"The HOD Themba Kojana had made various promises in respect to these findings, and committed to working with EE in order to strengthen accountability," she said.

Rinquest added that accountability and oversight of the department ultimately rested with the legislature. 

"It is therefore imperative that members of the legislature are aware of the state of schools in the province and the systematic failures of the executive."

She said they were forced to picket because they were not successful in numerous attempts to contact the Education Portfolio Committee to arrange an opportunity to present their findings to them. 

The Eastern Cape Department of Education was not immediately available for comment.

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