Another lifeline for education
The Basic Education Department has been thrown a new lifeline in its attempts to get textbooks to Limpopo schools.
Pretoria High Court Judge Jody Kollapen yesterday ordered the department to complete the delivery of all textbooks for Grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 by Friday next week.
It is the third deadline the department has been given since May.
It was given a deadline of May 17 and then of July 5 to deliver the textbooks and ensure that catch-up plans for pupils left without books were in place.
Both deadlines were missed.
Kollapen did not order the independent verification of the completion of the book deliveries .
The lack of a verification requirement has disappointed advocacy group Section27, which has been fighting to ensure that the department fulfils its constitutional obligations.
The department was yesterday ordered to ensure that all textbooks for next year, for all Grades 4, 5, 6 and 11 pupils, be delivered by December 15.
Kollapen also ordered that the department show by the end of this month what catch-up strategies and support structures were in place for teaching Grade 10 pupils next year.
He said it was distressing that, a month from the end of the school year, textbooks had still not been delivered.
"We might not be able to accurately quantify the effect this will have, but children certainly deserve better.
"What is required is captured in the constitution ... that public administration must be accountable, open and respond to the needs of the people."
Kollapen said that, though there was compelling evidence that the department had not delivered textbooks or developed a catch-up plan, the order he had granted was not aimed at finding fault or culpability but at ensuring compliance.
"It is clear there is a dispute regarding the catch-up plan and compliance with the plan. The plan is hardly what was contemplated by the court."
Section27's lawyer, Nikkie Stein, said some aspects of the court order were disappointing.
"Given that the department has missed two previous delivery dates, we believe there should be an independent verification process to ensure that the deliveries actually happen.
"We also believe that the department should have been [ordered to pay] punitive costs," she said.
Kollapen ordered the department to pay half the costs of the application.
Stein said Section27 had sought punitive costs because the department had ignored a number of letters demanding that it comply with its commitment to delivering the textbooks.
"It is not our objective to keep the department in court. It is to ensure textbooks are delivered."
Stein said her organisation would monitor the situation to ensure that the department met the latest deadline.
The spokesman for the Basic Education Department was not immediately available for comment.