Legal Resources Centre (LRC) calls on Department of Basic Education and UN Committee to ensure equitable access to digital resources in SA public schools


Legal Resources Centre (LRC) calls on Department of Basic Education and UN Committee

to ensure equitable access to digital resources in SA public schools

A South African delegation recently engaged in a dialogue with the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), presenting the country’s report on 24th and 25th January 2024. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) supported the South African delegation prior to the presentation with a submission on the right to education, specifically digital education.

The CRC, currently in its 95th session hosted in Geneva, has been evaluating reports from several State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of their obligations under the treaty.

The dialogue between the CRC and the South African delegation included discussions on a range of issues, including the need to ensure no violence against children, child marriages, equitable allocation of resources, the right to life and development, as well the right to education.

Both in its written report and dialogue with the CRC, the SA delegation made no mention of any efforts towards ensuring the accelerated implementation of the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards).

Section 16 of the Norms and Standards obligates the National and Provincial Departments of Basic Education to supply public schools with internet facilities ‘wired/wireless’  to enhance communication’. The Norms and Standards made provisions for this project to be completed within 7 years of its publication in 2013. Accordingly, all public schools in South Africa should have been equipped for internet connectivity by 2020.

While some schools have received this provision, equitable access to digital resources must be provided to public schools across all provinces. The lack thereof results in learners – the majority being those in quantile 1,2 and 3 schools – having no access to the internet and digital forms of schooling, unlike most privileged learners in fee-paying schools. Many public schools do not have adequate basic infrastructure, such as electricity, which increases the difficulties for these learners and greatly impacts their ability to exercise their right to education.

Due to the unequal distribution of digital resources, learners in quantiles 1,2, and 3 will face even greater challenges when competing with digitally literate learners. This will cause a subsequent ripple effect, affecting their ability to access tertiary education and employment opportunities that demand high levels of competence within the digital environment.

Equitable access to free and accessible digital educational resources, and by extension access to the internet and data, is an integral component of the right to basic education. The non-provision of the internet and inequitable access to digital educational resources in many public schools thus violate a learner’s right to basic education, as well as their rights to equality, non-discrimination, dignity, and equal protection of the law.

The LRC has engaged with the Department of Basic Education as well as the Department of Social Development regarding this issue, and they have shown willingness to have fruitful engagements. We hope the engagements will result in an undertaking and provision of a framework by the relevant departments in implementing plans made for providing internet access to all public schools and ensuring the allocation of sufficient resources to implement these plans.

See the LRC’s submission to the CRC here.



Contact Puleng Mosia at +27 63 001 4333.

The Legal Resources Centre is an independent public interest law centre with offices throughout South Africa. We work with partners and marginalised communities to harness the power of the law to promote social justice, fight for equality and realise the human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution.