For Immediate Release: 10 September 2018
On 20 August 2018, the Legal Resources Centre, representing concerned parents of learners at four extremely overcrowded schools in the Eastern Cape, filed an application in the Mthatha High Court against the MEC for Basic Education in the Eastern Cape and others. The application seeks a court order requiring the provision of classrooms at each school.
The schools include Attwell Madala Senior Secondary School in Mthatha, Enduku Junior Secondary School in eNgcobo, Dudumayo Senior Secondary School in Mqanduli, and Mnceba Senior Secondary School in Ntabankulu.
The application also seeks to ameliorate overcrowding in schools throughout the Mthatha and Amathole school districts by requiring the MEC submit to the court plans for decreasing the overcrowding at schools in these districts which have not been identified in the government’s existing infrastructure plans.
Overcrowded classrooms undermine children’s right to a basic education as enshrined in section 29 of the Constitution. Regulation 9(2) of the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure state that “acceptable” classrooms contain a maximum of 40 learners. The Infrastructure Norms, published in 2013, were meant to be phased in over seven years and required the MEC to provide plans for implementing the Norms and to continually report to the Minister of Basic Education on the progress of these plans.
However, available plans do not include provision for the applicant schools, where overcrowding has reached crisis levels. The overcrowding at Mnceba SSS, which has 12 classes with more than 80 learners and two classes with more than 100 learners, has resulted in teachers holding classes outside under trees. Enduku JSS has six classrooms with more than 70 learners and Attwell Madala SSS has six classes with more than 80 learners. Almost all the classrooms at Dudumayo SSS have more than 80 learners and four classes have over 100 learners.
Squeezed into small classrooms, learners don’t have enough space to write properly. Teachers struggle to manage packed classrooms and learners struggle to hear them teach. Teachers cannot move around the classroom and learners have to mark their own work. Teachers cannot keep track of each student and learners skip school for long periods without being noticed.
The court application will hopefully lead to a court order which results in classrooms being built at the applicant schools and all overcrowded schools in the Mthatha and Amathole districts being included in the MEC’s plans to implement the Infrastructure Norms.
The matter has not yet been opposed by the MEC and the matter has not been set down for hearing.