Press Release: New toilets for EC School after Legal Intervention
Nombulelo School v MEC for Education
For Immediate Release: 12 November 2019
Five years of relentless efforts by the school governing body (SGB) of Nombulelo Secondary School finally paid off when the High Court in Makhanda granted an order today that will see the damaged and unsafe toilets at the school replaced. Represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the SGB’s application for an order directing the MEC and Superintendent General for Education in the Eastern Cape to repair, refurbish, or replace a damaged and dangerous toilet block within six months was granted.
Nombulelo Secondary School is situated in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) and has more than 900 learners in grades 8 to 12.
In 2013 a toilet block at the school was extensively damaged by a fire. Despite continuing, exhaustive efforts by the school to have it repaired by the department of education, it has to date not been repaired. What remains of the burnt toilet block is unsafe and a health and safety hazard. Portions of the roof continue to fall down and the first-floor concrete slab is at risk of imminent collapse. Learners who pass the building are exposed to danger daily.
Nombulelo is situated in an extremely poor area of Makhanda and is a “no fee” school entirely reliant on government funding for its operation. The school governing body that brought the application argued that the Eastern Cape Department of Education has a duty to protect and promote the learners’ constitutional rights to dignity and education and ensure that they have access to safe toilets.
The court ordered that the MEC and the Superintendent-General must deliver a report within 30 days outlining how the toilets will be repaired, refurbished, or replaced; appoint a contractor to effect the improvements within 90 days, and ensure that the improvements are completed within six months.
“The extent to which the school has been blocked, delayed, stonewalled, and pushed from pillar to post these past four years has been not only frustrating but also tragic,” said Nicci Hayes, former principal of Nombulelo Secondary School. “This is an issue of human dignity and human rights.”
The LRC welcomes this judgement and its affirmation of learners’ rights guaranteed by section 28 and 29 of the Constitution. This order is granted against the background of ongoing litigation and advocacy on the state of school sanitation in the country. Government officials in charge of providing education should take notice. If there is a failure to provide a safe and stable learning environment, those responsible may be held to account in court.
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The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses the law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.