'Pupils burn down school'
"Over government's failure to fix infrastructure" - Equal Education organisation
Learners at Menziwa High School, in the Eastern Cape, burned down their school yesterday, according to the Equal Education (EE) group.
Menziwa High School had originally formed part of EE’s court case that was launched last week against the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and the nine provincial MECs for Education. It seeks a court order that would force Minister Motshekga to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.
However, Menziwa High School withdrew from the legal action following a promise from the Eastern Cape Government to rebuild the school.
Construction was meant to begin in November 2011 and the handover was meant to occur in February 2012, "but it was never initiated", EE said in a statement.
"The old temporary structures were meant to be replaced but [this week] contractors arrived to make repairs to the temporary structures.
"Members of the Student Representative Council, who were angered that new classrooms had not been built, told everyone to vacate the buildings before they set them on fire.
"The learners' destructive action and desperation must be viewed in light of their schools history," EE said.
Menziwa has been struggling to function with appalling infrastructure for many years. It was damaged on 20 December 2010 when it was struck by a tornado and then by severe storm in March 2011.
Learners at Menziwa attended class in five shutter-board classrooms that all lacked significant portions of their walls, EE said. Heavy metal gutters hung from the roof and all the windows had either been broken or blown out by strong winds. In some classrooms electrical wiring was exposed.
"As a result of the pre-existing inadequacies and the weather damage the condition of the school infrastructure posed a risk to the physical safety of the learners and impeded their ability to attain a basic education.
"The effect of the failing infrastructure was evident on learner attendance, enrolment and results. Following the weather damage to the school enrolment dropped from 416 to 306 learners and the Matric pass rate dropped from 46% in 2006 to 10% in 2010.
"Violence and destruction of property is unacceptable but the Eastern Cape Government and National Government must be held accountable for failing Menziwa High School. The school has been left in a state of disrepair and allowed to deteriorate."
And it added, "Although Menziwa High School withdrew from EE’s legal action, this incident shows the urgency with which norms and standards need to be promulgated in South Africa. Until minimum norms and standards define what infrastructure every school needs, schools like Menziwa High School will continue to exist and South Africa’s education system will continue to be defined by historical inequality".