Burnt classrooms, broken walls and pit toilets are just a few of the images by Eastern Cape high school pupils on display at the Nyamezela (Perseverance) exhibition.
The exhibition was set up outside the offices of the provincial education department in Zwelitsha.
It coincided with government’s self-imposed deadline to implement minimum standards for school infrastructure. However, more than 20000 schools nationwide still remain in appalling conditions.
The photovoice project exhibited photographs taken by high school pupils across the Eastern Cape.
These pupils are members of the more than 1200 “Equalisers” of advocacy group Equal Education.
The Equalisers are the same pupils who, through intense and sustained campaigning, forced Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to promulgate the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure.
The travelling exhibition sheds light on the courage and resilience that exists in schools in the Eastern Cape, at the same time illustrating the infrastructure crisis that still impedes teaching and learning every day.
EE Eastern Cape researcher Nika Soon-Shiong said Equalisers were each given cameras to take pictures of things that inspired them at school as well as of the challenges that made it difficult for pupils to go to school.
Soon-Shiong said the aim of the project was to bring the attention of the learning environment in schools in the Eastern Cape.
“It was also important to have the exhibition today [yesterday] as it marks the expiry date of the government’s deadline to meet the norms and standards of schools.
“We chose to have the exhibition at a public space where everyone could see the pictures and also because it is just outside the department offices.
“While officials from the department come out to enjoy their lunch, they will have these pictures in their faces,” she said.
Equal Education general secretary Tshepo Motsepe said the law stipulated that by November 29 (yesterday), every school must have basic services such as water, electricity, and toilets, and that schools made of inappropriate structures (mud, wood, zinc, and asbestos) must be rebuilt.
“After the 29 November deadline it will be illegal for schools not to have the basic infrastructure described in the norms and standards.
“We will then be able to take up individual cases of schools and potentially go to court on their behalf to demand that they fix the schools,” Motsepe said.
A Grade 10 pupil at Hector Peterson High School, Kuhle Mzileni, said it was important for him to show his pictures at the exhibition as his school faced many problems.
“We have classes that are not in good condition. Some classes do not have doors and when it is cold, we don’t come to school, our teachers do not teach and we get behind with the curriculum.
“There is also a high crime rate where our school is situated. Our school does not have a gate but a huge bed mattress put in place as a gate, so people just walk in and out of the school premises, putting us at great risk. We have had many incidents where learners were attacked in class,” said Kuhle.
Today, Equal Education will hold a press conference in the Pretoria CBD outside the offices of the Basic Education Department.
EE’s leadership, including pupils, will speak on the violation of the school infrastructure law by Minister Angie Motshekga and all nine of her MECs.
Motshekga acknowledged that the department was plagued with challenges over infrastructure but said in her department’s defence that progress had been made.
“While we are not moving fast as we would like, the political will is indeed there,’’ said Motshekga. — firstname.lastname@example.org