Court rules SA failing to provide textbooks


SOUTH AFRICA’s dysfunctional state school system has come under scrutiny following a high court ruling on Thursday that the government is violating the constitutional right of students to an education by failing to give them textbooks.

The court in Pretoria was ruling on a case brought by rights organisation Section 27 against Limpopo province’s basic education department, which it accused of not delivering the required textbooks to thousands of schools.

Judge Jody Kollapen ruled the matter needed to be urgently addressed, and ordered the department to form a plan to resolve the issue by June 15th. After the verdict, Section 27 said that about 1.7 million students at over 5,000 schools in Limpopo would benefit.

The National Association of School Governing Bodies said the department’s failure to deliver on a promise made by President Jacob Zuma in February to improve teaching standards and delivery was “repugnant”.

Under apartheid, black students received a much inferior standard of education to their white counterparts, and following the advent of democracy in 1994 it was hoped the African National Congress-led government would be able to turn the floundering system around.

However, despite ploughing billions of euro into infrastructure, curriculum and training over the past 17 years, many experts say that ongoing corruption, maladministration and incompetence has left many poor students worse off than under apartheid.

The government has admitted in recent months that 80 per cent of state-run schools in South Africa are failing to deliver a proper education and basic services. In a recent report, it said 1,700 schools were without water and 15,000 had no library.

Basic education minister Angie Motshek has already promised reforms and increased investment in infrastructure, but militant teaching unions and low teaching staff morale has left many schools in a precarious position.

“We have research from various communities, and increasingly from government, saying that, in many places, teachers are not in school on Mondays or Fridays, that many teachers have other jobs simultaneously and the actual amount of teaching going on in the classrooms is a fraction of what it should be,” she said in March.

Because of the situation there has been a surge in low-cost private schools seeking to register with the authorities.