30/11/2016 20:25 SAST | Updated 30/11/2016 20:41 SAST

Stop Making Empty Promises, Eastern Cape Pupils Tell Motshekga

"So Angie, start giving us what we deserve and stop making empty promises. Give us quality and equal education. One learner, one textbook."

Ryan Gray / Reuters
Children write notes from a makeshift blackboard at a school in Mwezeni village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province in this picture taken 5 June 2012.

Eastern Cape pupils believe the education department has failed them dismally and are worried that the lack of basic resources at their schools will affect their future.

Siyamthanda Luve Ngqeme is one of them.

The Grade 9 pupil at Iqonce High School in King William's Town says his school is in such a poor state that he lives in constant fear that one day he will wake up and be told it has collapsed.

Speaking during an Equal Education briefing outside the basic education department's national head office in Pretoria on Wednesday, Nqgeme pleaded with Minister Angie Motshekga to stop failing the youth.

"You say that we are the leaders of tomorrow, we are the next scientists, we are the future of this country, but you don't give us the resources to become those leaders of tomorrow," he said.

"So Angie, start giving us what we deserve and stop making empty promises. Give us quality and equal education. One learner, one textbook."

The department failed to meet a three-year deadline to meet the infrastructure law — previously known as Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. The deadline was Tuesday, November 29.

'Crisis conditions'

The law makes it illegal for any school in South Africa not to have access to water, electricity, or toilets, and for any school to be built out of wood, mud, asbestos or zinc.

All nine provincial departments have submitted their reports to Motshekga, detailing their progress. The Eastern Cape is one of the worst performing provinces.

NGO Equal Education visited 60 schools across the Eastern Cape to investigate the department's compliance with the deadline.

"What we found in the Eastern Cape were crisis conditions."

Schools had "appalling infrastructure". Some were substantially, or entirely, made of inappropriate materials or had no access to water or electricity.

"In total 17 of the 60 schools we visited constituted an outright violation of the three-year norms and standards deadline," the organisation's general secretary Tshepo Motsepe said.

One of those schools was Ngqeme's. It has seven classrooms for more than 300 children. Two of the classrooms burnt down on July 19.

This meant some pupils had to have classes outside, sometimes in bad weather.

'Things are just getting worse'

He said department officials came to inspect the damage. The matter was reported on radio and in newspapers, yet nothing had been done.

He said the school did not have a library, a science or a computer laboratory — resources they desperately needed.

There were not enough desks, so some children were forced to learn while standing. The school had only two toilets, which were not working properly.

"So with the first deadline of norms and standards, the department of education has failed us."

Nqgeme also had a message for Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula.

"I just want to say to the MEC, my school will be 20 years old next year and nothing has changed and things are just getting worse."

Several high school pupils from various schools gathered outside the department's offices holding up placards saying, "Education authorities step down", "Poor infra = no inner peace" and "Keep calm and give us what we want". Others held up pictures depicting the conditions of their classrooms.