Textbooks: Blame game doesn’t help pupils, court hears

2014-04-23 17:37

It was clear that pupils’ rights to education had been violated, counsel for Basic Education For All and Section27 Adila Hassim told the North Gauteng High Court today. This was in response to the claim that principals were responsible for the delay in the delivery of textbooks.

“It is not necessary to assign blame,” Hassim said.

She was responding to defence counsel Chris Erasmus’ argument that the department of education cannot be blamed for the non-delivery of books in Limpopo as principals had failed to report shortages. He had also accused them of failing to retrieve textbooks from pupils at the end of last year.

Even after realising there were shortages, Erasmus said books could not be bought until the beginning of the new financial year on April 1.

Hassim said: “What is necessary is an effective remedy. The lack of money and principals doesn’t assist the children. We want a reporting requirement about the delivery of textbooks. We want them to report how they will ensure delivery.”

Erasmus also argued that since the department had now delivered more than 98% of textbooks in Limpopo, it cannot be argued that delivery has not happened. However, Hassim said that was cold comfort in light of the fact that the department had an obligation to provide every pupil with a textbook per subject.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who appeared on behalf of the SA Human Rights Commission, said the department didn’t even know how many pupils there were in Limpopo. “Last year in July, they said there were 1.6 million pupils. This year, they are saying the same. If the one-textbook-per-pupil principle is to be applied, the number of pupils is absolutely critical.”

The applicants and the defence have agreed that all outstanding textbooks in respect of the current academic year will be delivered by May 8. In respect of textbooks lost as a result of non-delivery last year and in 2012 and those lost as a result of schools’ failure to retrieve them, delivery will take place by June 6.

The applicants want these arrangements to be declared an order of court. The department is opposing this.

Judge Neil Tuchten has reserved judgment.

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