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Budgets and Bricks

Author: Carmen Abdoll
Date: 2016-06-01

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The Rivonia Primary School Constitutional Court Case was about one little girl trying to get access to quality education. But it was also about much more – if the child was not placed at Rivonia Primary (where class sizes averaged 24) she would have been placed at another school (where class sizes averaged 40), and in other parts of Gauteng class sizes might be much higher. So essentially the case symbolises the pressure for places in classrooms, and for more classrooms, and ultimately, for more schools. The solution does not lie in squeezing more children into a finite number of schools, particularly not in a province with a population growth rate as fast as that of Gauteng.

In evidence placed before the Constitutional Court, the Provincial Department of Basic Education (GDE) set out their plans to build new schools. These included very specific commitments regarding spending on infrastructure in the province. In 2009, it was projected that over the next 3 years an average of 40 per cent of the Department's total infrastructure budget will be spent on the provisioning of new schools in newly developed areas as well as areas where accommodation backlogs are present. In monetary terms, the government planned to spend a total of R 1.780 billion over the three years.

This study was commissioned as part of the Centre for Child Law's monitoring and evaluation processes. The Centre was amicus curiae in the matter which was heard by the Constitutional Court in 2013. Three years on, it is a good time to consider how well government is getting on with that promised building programme.

The report explores whether the GDE's promises in the Rivonia Primary School case have been met and whether the GDEs plan on infrastructure is sufficient. The GDE was responsible for analysing and providing for school infrastructure, but due to poor planning ( primarily the failure to account for future growth of learners) there were 20 000 learners without a school place at the start of 2016. The report grapples with the question of whether GDE's spending for 2015 is sufficient –and the task is hampered by the fact that the available data is limited, and the data that is available is problematic.

Strategic litigation has proved effective in relation to the right to basic education in South Africa. It has also placed information about government plans and budgets into the public domain. However, the effectiveness of litigation can really only be measured if we follow up cases for some time after a judgment has been handed down by the courts, and if we track the progress made against promises. This study does just that. The final verdict on the effectiveness of the court order lies with the reader.