'Mud schools' wait on state response

Seven “mud schools” in the rural Eastern Cape might have to wait until next year before their legal application to improve their infrastructure is heard in court.

The seven schools, all in the OR Tambo district, are suing the Eastern Cape education department, the national government and the OR Tambo district municipality to provide them with proper resources. The schools want the state’s failure to provide adequate school facilities to be declared unconstitutional.

According to the court papers, six of the schools have classrooms built from mud and one has classrooms made from cinder blocks. They all say their facilities are unusable and massively overcrowded.

Their affidavit also claims that pupils at all seven schools rely on tanks to catch rain water but often have to walk long distances to collect water during the dry winter months.

In addition, all seven schools face a severe shortage of desks and chairs, attorney Cameron McConnachie, who represents the schools, told the Mail & Guardian.

“What we—and the respondents from the schools—are saying is that government measures are unreasonable. They are simply not doing enough to provide adequate infrastructure,” he said.

“There seems to be some confusion of what basic rights to education actually includes. There has never been a ruling on this before.”

McConnachie said it is highly likely that the respondents will oppose the application, meaning that any court action could be delayed until at least early 2011.

The provincial department has until September 28 to respond to the court challenge, but said no decision has yet been taken on the matter.

“The matter has been referred to the provincial state attorney for appropriate legal opinion so at this stage we are not sure what our response to this matter will be,” provincial spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani told the M&G.

“There are two opinions on this matter. Either we settle as these schools are clearly in dire need and we would not want to shirk our responsibility.

“At the same time we don’t want to set the precedent and open ourselves up to such actions in the future. What I can confirm is that these schools are undergoing cost analysis to see what it would cost to bring them up to standard.”

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