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DBE unveils guidelines for education infrastructure

The Department of Basic Education has published “Guidelines Relating to Planning for Public School Infrastructure”. It would appear that the Guidelines have replaced the National Norms and Standards which were required to be developed and put into effect in terms of the National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment.

The objective of this policy is to guide the roll-out of an enabling physical teaching and learning environment on an equitable basis.

The Guidelines provide a benchmark and guidance as to the quantity and mix of resources that should be available at all schools. The Guidelines apply to all public schools and classes from Grade R to 12. The Guidelines envisage four levels of infrastructure, ranging from basic safety (that is where the factors present are such as not to cause harm to learners), to minimum functionality (which covers the basic infrastructure to enable a school to perform core functions), optimum functionality (where facilities allow a school to operate beyond basic safety and minimum functionality), and finally, enrichment (which includes the provision of additional targeted resources by the Minister over and above optimal functionality resources).

The Guidelines provide details as to the level of infrastructure that will qualify a school at different levels. For example, a school that does not have potable water and sanitation facilities, which has toxic substances within the school environment, which has extremely unsafe school structures, overcrowded classrooms and inadequate fencing will not meet the basic safety standard.

A school that has sufficient numbers of adequately sized classrooms as recommended by the Guidelines, an administration block, multipurpose classrooms, a general purpose school hall, science, technology and maths laboratories, adequate equipment, a library or regularly renewed library stocks, and a computer room or media centre meets optimal functionality standards.

The Guidelines provide for planning of school infrastructure development against the set standards which cover issues such as the minimum and maximum feeder zone, the total walking distance to schools, transport and hostel facilities for children outside of the feeder zone, location of the school in relation to busy streets, rivers and and cemeteries, etc., identification of the schools, basic services, school safety and security, average space per learner, architectural design, sports fields, library spaces and computer labs.