28 February 2022 – LRC heads to court over failure to deliver textbooks and stationery to all Eastern Cape schools

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For Immediate Release

28 February 2022

LRC heads to court over failure to deliver textbooks and stationery to all Eastern Cape schools

MAKHANDA — The Legal Resources Centre, acting on behalf of the Khula Development Forum in Peddie, has launched an urgent application to compel the delivery of textbooks and stationery to all Eastern Cape schools by the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE). Seven weeks into the school year, thousands of Eastern Cape schools are still without stationery and textbooks, which the ECDOE is blaming on budgetary constraints.

According to a memorandum from the ECDOE dated 12 January 2022, most schools in the province would only receive stationery between late January and the end of February 2022, while textbooks will only be delivered to schools between March and May 2022. However, learners need stationery to write and perform almost all their academic tasks, and they also need textbooks to follow the curriculum. Delivering textbooks to schools a few weeks before mid-year exams is a serious failure by the ECDOE.

In a letter sent to ECDOE on Thursday, 24 February, the LRC demanded that all stationery items be delivered to Eastern Cape public schools by 28 February 2022, and textbooks to be delivered by 31 March 2022. To ensure better transparency and oversight, the ECDOE was also called on to provide lists of schools, broken down by district, indicating exactly when each will receive stationery and textbooks, and from which supplier(s). Further, the ECDOE was also asked to outline the steps they would take to ensure that the same problems do not occur in 2023.  With no substantive response to any of the LRC’s three letters of demand, the LRC filed urgent papers on 24 February, hoping the matter will be heard on 15 March 2022.

The failure to deliver textbooks and stationery at the start of the 2022 academic year has had a terrible impact on schools, learners, and parents. This massive administrative bungling follows immediately on from two years of major learning loses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also has a disproportionately negative impact on no-fee paying schools which depend entirely on the state to fund every aspect of learners’ education. These schools are usually located in less affluent areas where parents are not able to contribute much financially to their children’s educational needs. Parents of learners attending schools in Makhanda and Gqeberha have told the court that they had to buy stationery for their children which impacted on their ability to buy food and clothes for their children in January 2022. Some teachers bought stationery out of their own pocket for learners in their classes who were unable to afford it.

The lack of textbooks is extremely problematic as schools are forced to rely on making copies of textbooks for the learners. Teachers have reported that learners lose these, and that it is difficult to teach when the copies are not in colour like the textbooks. Sandisiwe Matin, a parent of a grade 3 learner at Alfonso Arries Primary School in Gqeberha, explains this problem in her affidavit before court:

As a parent, it is really difficult to make sure that my child does not lose the pages copied from the textbook. It is not always possible to determine which pages belong to which textbook and in what order they should be placed. My child is still very young and does not have the responsibility to be able to keep all the pages together and make sure he keeps track of what pages go with what book. The photocopies are also not suitable for learning. The textbooks are usually printed in colour as some of the questions rely on references to colour in order to answer them. For example, the question may ask the learner to subtract the green apples from the red apples. If the child receives a photocopied version of the textbook, the colours cannot be seen. This means that my child cannot engage with the questions. As a parent, I have come across this on several occasions when trying to assist my son with his homework. This is frustrating, as he essentially cannot complete the questions. It is also frustrating as I know my child needs to be exposed to and learn about colours, and the photocopies do not allow him to do so.”

The right to basic education is a unique socio-economic right as it is unqualified by availability of resources and is immediately realisable. It has long been established that the right to basic education in section 29 of the Constitution includes the right to have access to a textbook. The ECDOE’s failure to provide stationery and textbooks on time violates the constitutional right to basic education, as well as the rights to dignity and equality. We hope this litigation will be resolved quickly and the ECDOE will delivery the stationery and textbooks that learners desperately need to exercise their right to a basic education. At this time none of the respondents have indicated whether they will oppose the application.


Issued by the Legal Resources Centre

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