Education in South Africa remains highly unequal. According to the 2011 Diagnostic Report of the National Planning Commission (NPC): “Education is perhaps where the apartheid legacy casts the longest shadow, because the performance of schools and the quality of learning are influenced by several historical factors.”
Public interest law organisations have pursued important interventions to build new schools where they are needed, to address the needs of “mud schools”, the supply of textbooks, and the provision of a sufficient number of teaching posts in schools.
As the result an extensive campaign mounted by a variety of public interest law organisations, including a series of legal interventions, the Minister of Basic Education published legally binding Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure in November 2013. It is now law that every school must have water, electricity, internet, working toilets, safe classrooms with a maximum of 40 learners, security, and thereafter libraries, laboratories and sports facilities. These set a standard for provincial education departments to work towards, and against which to be held accountable.
The Norms and Standards have, however, not been meaningfully implemented by the state with tragic incidents of child deaths having resulted from the failure by government to install toilets in schools.
In 2018, the Equal Education Law Centre successfully launched legal proceedings against the Minister of Education to compel the government to meaningfully implement the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.