Eastern Cape parents, teachers, and activists go to court to get education dept to deliver textbooks

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  • Parents, teachers, and activists are taking the Eastern Cape education department to court.
  • The provincial department is yet to deliver stationery and textbooks to every school, blaming it on "unprecedented budget shortfalls".
  • The Legal Resources Centre,  which represents the parents and activists, says the failure to provide the pupil material has a "disproportionately negative impact on no-fee paying schools".

Parents, supported by activists, are taking the Eastern Cape Department of Education to court for its failure to deliver books and stationery to more than 3 000 schools in the province.

The case is expected to be heard on 15 March. 

Petros Majola from the Khula Development Project said in the court papers:

Without stationery, learners are unable to function in the school environment. Writing material such as pens, pencils, notebooks, and paper are needed to participate in lessons, projects and homework, and are an essential component of what constitutes a conducive learning environment.

The Khula Development Project is an organisation based in Peddie. The organisation, along with concerned parents and some teachers, want the court to declare the department's inaction unlawful. They also want the court to instruct the department to deliver the learning material to all schools by no later than 31 March. They will be represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).

The respondents include the head of the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education, the MEC for Education and the provincial government.

READ | In the Eastern Cape, 4 703 schools have not yet received textbooks

In January, the department informed schools that there would be delays delivering the stationery and textbooks in time for the start of the school year due to "unprecedented budget shortfalls". In a memo, the department stated that textbooks would be delivered between March and May 2022.

The department said in the memo: 

Schools are therefore requested to utilise stationery that was provided in 2021 until they receive their 2022 consignments.

Meanwhile, Busisiwe Ngqina, a school governing body member and a parent of three children at DD Siwisa Primary School in Makhanda, said not having stationery has been "devastating".

Ngqina, in an affidavit, said she was unemployed and couldn't afford to buy stationery for her children.

Ngqina said:

My children have had to find old workbooks from previous years and tear out unused pages just so they can have something to write on.

She said that DD Siwisa has not received the 100 textbooks it ordered, which means that teachers have to loose photocopies if they want all students to have access to the material. This is expensive and time-consuming.

The LRC sent the provincial department a letter, asking it to supply stationery to all schools before the end of February, and textbooks by the end of March. The lawyers also demanded that the department responds with clear timelines of when the material will be delivered by 11 February. But when no response was received, the LRC decided to take the matter to court.

On 28 February, the LRC said in a statement that the failure to provide pupil material has a "disproportionately negative impact on no-fee paying schools which depend entirely on the state".

The Eastern Cape Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

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