Equal Education Demands Classrooms Built with Asbestos be Replaced

  • This past Thursday 30 August 2018, members of Equal Education (EE) picketed outside the Gauteng Department of Education
  • Equal Education demanded that Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi ‘prioritise the eradication and replacement of all classrooms built substantially from asbestos’.
  • Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, increasing risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis

Equal Education, a lobby group addressing inequality in education in South Africa this past week picketed outside the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to demand that Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi ‘prioritise the eradication and replacement of all classrooms built substantially from asbestos’.

Equal Education recognised that GDE has prioritised the replacement of 29 schools made entirely out of asbestos, but this is wholly insufficient. There are hundreds more schools in Gauteng with classrooms built substantially of asbestos, exposing learners, teachers and support staff to the harmful substance every day.

The memo submitted states “The dangers of asbestos are so severe that any school infrastructure made out of asbestos, even partially, should be a priority… it is inhumane to continue to risk the health of [pupils], teachers, school administrative staff and the school’s community through continued exposure to asbestos,”

South Africa finally banned the use, manufacturing, importing and exporting of asbestos and asbestos-c containing materials in 2008. The banning formed part of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, increasing risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

The 50 strong picketers also demanded that MEC Lesufi must withdraw his support for the appeal of the Bhisho High Court school infrastructure judgment. On 19 July 2018, the High Court ruled that all “classrooms built entirely or substantially” of inappropriate materials should have been replaced by 29 November 2016.

The memo was received by Chief of staff of the department, Oupa Bodibe, who responded by saying that Equal Education would receive feedback in two weeks.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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