Learners call for Western Cape education department to pull out of court case

National government has appealed Bhisho High Court ruling on minimum norms and standards

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Photo of protest
Equal Education members protested outside the Western Cape legislature on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Phathiswa Shushwana

About 200 learners protested outside the Western Cape legislature on Thursday afternoon, after school. They called for MEC of Education Debbie Schafer to withdraw her department’s appeal against a recent court judgment on school norms and standards.

On 19 July the Bhisho High Court ruled that the state has to improve hundreds of inadequate school buildings made of mud, asbestos, metal or wood. The judgment is explained here.

Vuyolwethu Tswelekile, a 16-year-old in 11th grade at Walmer High School, addressed the demonstrators and then led them in a chant, “Stop The appeal Debbie! Stop it!”

The protest, organised by Equal Education, also had parents and supporters of the movement.

The protest follows the announcement by the national Department of Basic Education that it will appeal the Bhisho ruling. The Western Cape education department, which was a respondent in the case, is joining the appeal. Equal Education met with MEC Schafer on 21 August, where she said she would not withdraw the province from the appeal.

Equal Education member Qhamani Marshall said, “We feel that the department could save time and resources by not going back to court to appeal the court judgement. Time and resources they should rather use to fix our schools. A school with no norms is no school at all.”

Parent Thobeka Mbalo said, “We did social audits in the schools that our children attend. It was very painful to see … It is disappointing that 24 years into democracy, there are still more similarities than differences to the schools we went to then, and the schools our children attend now. I don’t know what I’m voting for since we still have these issues.”

Nontsikelelo Dlulani, provincial head of Equal Education said, “It is not Equal Education who came up with the norms and standards, it was government. It does not make sense that the education department would try to run away from their responsibilities. They are trying to deprive us the right to challenge and hold them accountable.”

Equal Education members from 56 schools in the province wrote letters to the MEC asking her to withdraw the appeal. A memorandum asked that these letters be considered and that the department revert back to Equal Education by 13 September.

The memorandum was received on behalf of the MEC by Jerome Gordon, Deputy Director of Infrastructure Planning, and Lance Abrahams, Deputy Director of Districts. Addressing the demonstrators, Gordon read a message from Schafer confirming that she will not be withdrawing from the appeal. GroundUp is awaiting further comment from the MEC, and this article will be updated when we receive it.

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TOPICS:  Education

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