Newsletter 262 - "Broken & Unequal" - The State of Education in South Africa - Amnesty International - PART 3
- Our findings were reinforced by a survey we conducted with the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) amongst 101 school governing body representatives in three provinces – Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Some of the key findings are that only 17% of respondents indicated that either all or most school buildings in their area had been renovated in the last 20 years; 37% said that in their area at least some schools did not have enough classrooms, including 11% who said that none of the schools in their area did; 24% responded that none of the schools in their area had any sports facilities and 38% said that none had a library.
- Breaking the results down by province also reveals some stark differences. In Gauteng 48% stated that no schools had been renovated and 41% said that only a few or some had been. Only three respondents (10%) said that all schools in their areas had sufficient classrooms, while 28% indicated that most schools did have enough. 48% said that few or none had a sufficient number of classrooms. 75% indicated that few or no schools had their own sports facilities with only 11% stating that most did. Half of respondents said that either few or no schools in their area had a library. In Eastern Cape 62% indicated that few or no schools had been renovated in the last 20 years compared to only 12% indicating that all or most had been; 47% that stated few or no schools in their area had enough classrooms; 56% said either few or no schools had sports facilities whilst 74% indicated that few or no schools had a library.
- One of the key infrastructure issues is poor sanitation which impacts on a range of rights including not just education, water and sanitation but also health, privacy and dignity.
- Amnesty International researchers found numerous examples of badly maintained, broken or unsanitary toilets, including pit latrines. This is despite the fact that a key requirement of the 2013 Minimum Norms and Standards is that plain pit latrines are eradicated.
- Of the students Amnesty International interviewed, 67 out of 87 who identified toilets as an issue in Gauteng said the toilets were dirty and/or unhealthy; 32 out of 45 did so in Eastern Cape. Issues of particular concern included lack of sufficient toilets for the number of pupils in line with the learner to toilet ratio of the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure of 1:30; lack of an adequate and/or reliable water supply often requiring use of a borehole; poor hygiene with associated health problems among learners; leaking septic tanks; broken sanitation infrastructure that could not be repaired owing to lack of funds and an inability to remedy vandalism or theft in sanitation facilities.
- Looking at the bigger picture in the joint survey carried out with the NASGB, 47% of respondents across the three provinces indicated that schools in their area had pit toilets, including 21% where either all or most schools had them.
- Eastern Cape scored the worst, with 63% of respondents indicating that at least some schools still had pit toilets, with 25% stating that all or most schools still had them. In Limpopo, 59% still had schools with at least some pit toilets. In Gauteng, 14% still had schools with at least some pit toilets.
- The lack of safety and security for learners and staff also continues to be a significant problem. Among the examples that Amnesty International came across were a school that had been burgled six times in the last year but still depended on volunteers to provide security instead of paid staff; a school whose repeated calls for better security to the Provincial Education Department (PED) have gone unheeded, despite suffering an average of one break-in per month and a school that had been burgled more than 10 times in a year still had no security guard, relying instead on a voluntary school patrol.
- Beyond infrastructure there are additional barriers that children in South Africa face to access a quality education.
- Pupils experience a lack of sufficient transport, which often impacts on not just their ability to access education but also can put their safety at increased risk. The problems with transport were confirmed by the NASGB survey with 26% of respondents saying that either all or most learners have to travel more than 2km to school in their area with a further 45% stating that some have to; at the same time 54% said no transport is provided by the PED for pupils who need it. 60% thought that lack of transport affects pupil attendance.
- When broken down by province, differences are notable: In Eastern Cape 76% stated that all or most learners have to walk more than 2km to school compared to 58% in Limpopo and 27% in Gauteng. In Limpopo 59% said no transport was provided for pupils who need it compared to 51% in Eastern Cape and 37% in Gauteng. 59% in Eastern Cape thought that lack of transport affects pupil attendance, compared to 52% in Gauteng and 39% in Limpopo.
- Nationally the picture is just as bleak.
- According to the 2013 National Household Travel Survey of the 17.4 million learners who attended educational institutions, about 11 million walk to school. Of these 22% (or more than 2.4 million children) walk for between 30 minutes and an hour to get to their educational institution meaning it is likely to be more than 3km.
- This is despite the fact that the Department of Transport, in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, is required to ensure that transport is provided to grades R to 12 pupils who live more than 3km from the nearest school.
- Children in the lowest income groups are also more likely to walk to school than those in the highest income group. In KwaZulu-Natal alone, where more learners walk to school than in any other province, more than 210,000 pupils walk for more than an hour each way, and 659,000 walk for between 30 minutes and an hour each way.