Door wide open for interference with school capacity, says FEDSAS about amendments to regulations

10/06/2024 - Fedsas

Amendments to the regulations determining norms and standards for public school infrastructure were published in the Government Gazette without any consultation the day before the general election.          

“The model for public schools rests on a partnership between all role-players, including the Department of Basic Education. A lack of consultation goes against everything the Constitution stands for. We are disappointed that the Minister of Basic Education is taking shortcuts by not consulting with education partners,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of FEDSAS (the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools).     

FEDSAS commented on proposals about two years ago but received no reaction. In the meantime, there was a court order on infrastructure, and one of the amendments on capacity that was added now did not form part of the original proposal in 2022 which means FEDSAS could not comment on this amendment.    

Deacon says FEDSAS has already sent a letter via its attorney to request that Minister Angie Motshekga withdraws the amendments with immediate effect. “We are especially concerned about the removal of a regulation pertaining to school capacity. Previously the regulations made provision for a minimum space of one square metre per learner and seven square metres per educator. Even though this regulation was often applied in a very subjective manner, scrapping it will leave decisions about school capacity entirely up to the judgement of education officials.” 

School capacity, in other words the number of learners that a school can accommodate safely, is a matter that relates directly to school governing bodies. However, there was no form of discussion in this case. The Minister did not consult with the National Consultative Form for governing bodies either. This despite an agreement that all guidelines, regulations, and legislation must serve before the NCF for input before it is announced. 

FEDSAS has already made a comprehensive presentation on school capacity to the Minister. Such regulations will provide measurable, objective criteria to be used in determining when a school has reached capacity. “This is a core aspect of school governance. It also influences language and admission policy and is often the first regulation that education officials turn to in forcing schools to implement ill-considered decisions.” 

FEDSAS requested the Minister to withdraw the regulations by Friday (7 June 2024) and to announce a proper consultation process. FEDSAS has since been informed that the Minister’s spokesperson has indicated that the wrong regulations were published. However, it has not been withdrawn formally. “FEDSAS is a committed education partner that prefers proactive involvement during the planning phase instead of reactive legal action. However, when necessary, we will not hesitate to ask the court to prevent the implementation of these flawed amendments,” says Deacon.         

Through the years, FEDSAS has built a relationship of trust with the Minister and the Department of Basic Education. “The organisation has demonstrated its commitment to positive cooperation over and over. In this instance, we are ready to provide input to the benefit of the children of our country.” 

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