Shortage of textbooks not a violation of a child’s right to education, department argues

2014-04-22 18:00

The shortage of textbooks in Limpopo does not amount to the violation of a child’s right to education, the department of basic education will argue in court.

This was revealed by Adila Hassim, counsel for Basic Education For All and Section27, which dragged the department to court over the shortage of textbooks.

The applicants are demanding that the department deliver 18 000 outstanding books to 39 schools in Limpopo. They are also demanding that the department deliver textbooks it didn’t deliver in previous years, as well as those lost by learners.

Hassim said the basic education department “is arguing that the lack of books in Limpopo is not a violation of the right to education. They say this is because they have delivered most of the books. It’s a bizarre proposition. Each child should have a full complement of textbooks.”

Hassim said the department would also argue that the right to education will not be violated because there are other ways to administer lessons in the absence of textbooks. The department, she said, had also added budgetary constraints into the mix.

“The right to education is not subject to the availability of resources. Textbooks are not complementary to the learning process; they are essential.”

Judge Neil Tuchten said he was also getting the sense that the department was saying: “Well, it’s not the end of the world without textbooks. Education goes on anyway.”

The applicants and the defence have agreed that outstanding books for the new curriculum will be delivered by May 8. Textbooks that were supposed to be delivered in previous years and those lost by learners would be delivered by June 6, the parties said.

Court has adjourned until tomorrow to allow for the basic education department’s senior defence counsel, Chris Erusmus, to file an affidavit with evidence showing that some of the 39 schools had actually received their books.

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