By LUCAS NOWICKI
The Grahamstown High Court has ordered the Eastern Cape Department of Education to provide all outstanding textbooks and stationery to public schools across the province by 30 March.
Judge Murray Lowe handed down the order on Tuesday afternoon.
Late last month, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), representing education organisation Khula Community Development Project and children and parents from Makhanda and across the province, brought the urgent application to the court. This came after the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education failed to deliver textbooks and stationery to over 3,000 schools in the province because of “unprecedented budget shortfalls”.
The department wanted to be given till the end of April to deliver textbooks.
The court found that the department’s failure to provide textbooks and stationery to all public schools in the Eastern Cape by the start of term on 19 January violated the Constitution. The judge also found that the plan to deliver the textbooks by May 2022 violated the Constitution.
Government schools’ first term ends next week, and most local schools still don’t have textbooks.
The education department must submit an affidavit within seven days to update the court and the applicants on progress.
The affidavit must contain the name of each school in the province that has not yet been provided, the full complement of textbooks and stationery, and the exact details of what is still needed for each school. The affidavit must also contain the dates for when the materials will be delivered to these schools.
If the LRC and education activists are not satisfied with the progress in the submitted affidavit, they can file an affidavit within ten days of the department’s report.
The order also directs the provincial department of education to submit another affidavit before 30 September 2022 to show progress in planning to make sure that “every learner at every school in the Eastern Cape is provided with the full complement of stationery and textbooks before the commencement of the 2023 schooling year”.
The department was ordered to pay legal costs.
In her affidavit to the court, provincial education department secretary Dr Naledi Mbude said she was “sincerely and unreservedly sorry” for the delays. She admitted that the department had violated the Constitution.
She said the department had delivered stationery to most schools, and the rest would receive them before the end of March. But, local schools report that textbooks have still not arrived.
This story was first published by GroundUp.org.za