Schools across South Africa have resumed teaching and learning for the third term of the academic year, but not all learners took their seats and opened their books. On Wednesday, the 19th of July, instead of opening its doors, Job Rathebe Junior Secondary School, kept its doors closed.
The school, based in Soweto, saw little to no students attend their classes for the first day back after parents and members of the School Governing Body began a protest in regards to the poor conditions of the school's infrastructure.
Parents and the SGB staged the protest as a way to call for the attention and intervention of Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, after claiming the school had been left without a Principal, as well as the teachers and learners having to cope with inhumane conditions.
Parents of the learners attending the school threatened that no learning and/or teaching shall take place until the Department of Education sent officials to address the situation.
Job Rathebe Junior Secondary School is definitely not the first school to have such poor working conditions, nor are they the first to complain. While there are schools with excellent infrastructure, there are quite a number without basic services such as water and sanitation.
Many South African learners are forced to attend school within run-down buildings, often worrying that they will collapse; resulting in injuries or death. Learners often have no other choice but to use unsafe sanitation facilities, such as plain pit toilets, or relieve themselves in nearby fields.
Schools mostly located in remote or rural areas have had to deal with these unpleasant circumstances for years now, despite the assurance of the Education Department that a plan is underway through two programmes, namely the Sanitation Appropriate For Education (SAFE) Initiative and the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).
The Vice-President of the National Professional Teacher's Organization of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Tinus Du Preez, says that there is a general problem of infrastructure in our schools.
"Even new schools that are built [are] not up to standard and in some schools in the Eastern Cape, we've got schools that are newly bought [but] the toilets are still not functional; there is no water supply, so NAPTOSA is hugely concerned about this."
Du Preez continues by saying that the responsibility to ensure that functional and decent infrastructure within schools lies with the National Department, as that is where the funding comes from.
"There are funds available, these are conditional grants for infrastructure development; and especially in schools which are no-fee paying schools, where should they get the funds from?"
Having good infrastructure in schools can make it possible for children that live in remote areas to study and, in addition, it can improve the attendance and interest of students and teachers in learning.
In October 2022, the Finance Minister will table amendments to the 2022 division of the Revenue Amendment Bill to enable provinces to pledge their infrastructure grants, in order to leverage more financing to fast track the rollout of infrastructure.