Judge urges civil rights groups, education department to solve textbook issues

2014-04-03 13:03

The judge hearing a case about textbook shortages in Limpopo has urged the applicants and the department of basic education to solve the crisis as though dealing with a family dispute.

North Gauteng High Court Judge Neil Tuchten told Basic Education for All, Section27 and the department that the case had “a lot in common with a dispute within a family on how to conduct matters relating to children”.

“You all have a common desire to do the best for the children. I would urge parties to get together to see if a plan cannot be devised to solve this. At the centre of this is little Mpho who doesn’t have a textbook and doesn’t know where to get it from,” Tuchten said today.

He urged the two civil rights groups to pour their energy into helping the department conduct a textbook shortage audit so it can be addressed.

Adila Hassim, the lawyer for Basic Education for All and Section27, told the court they decided to litigate after the department failed to provide information about how many pupils were still short of textbooks.

“The department has failed thus far to solve the shortages. Their systems to deliver books are not working. What we don’t have is a plan on what they are going to do to deliver textbooks,” Hassim said.

She said the applicants would be happy if, either through a court order or discussions, the department agrees to conduct a books audit under the supervision of the SA Human Rights Commission.

“We would be happy and it would cure the problem. We can all go home and be happy.”

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, lawyer for the Human Rights Commission, said such an audit was necessary.

“The problem is that we don’t know how many little Mphos are out there, where they are and what books they are short of.”

Tuchten urged the parties to try and solve the matter without his interference. He also asked them to approach the deputy judge president to find a suitable date for the case in the event that an out-of-court settlement can’t be reached.

Basic Education for All and Section27 are asking the court to force the department to deliver all outstanding books by April 7.

Last week, City Press reported that 23 schools in Limpopo are still short of about 18 000 textbooks. These schools have supplied affidavits to support the case against the department.

The judge said if the applicants do not reach a settlement, they will be back in court on April 22 and 23.

» This article was updated after first published.

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