Lack of textbooks violates S.African students’ rights: court
South Africa's failure to provide textbooks to all of its public school students is a violation of their constitutional right to an education, a High Court ruled Thursday.
The case was brought on behalf of two schools in Limpopo province, where the national government has taken over education and other basic services that had been run into the ground.
Judge Jody Kolappen gave the Basic Education Ministry until June 15 to supply the missing textbooks and to set up a remedial programme to help students make up for lost time.
“The judge relied on the importance of education for the foundation of other constitutional rights, and recognised that textbooks are an essential componenent of this right,” said Nikki Stein, one of the lawyers in the case.
“It says that the failure (to provide textbooks) is a breach of the constitutional right” to an education, said Stein, who works for Section 27, a public interest legal centre.
The case of the two rural schools in Limpopo is hardly isolated. One study found that in 2007, only 45 percent of students aged 12-13 had a textbook for reading, and only 36 percent had one for math.
“The ultimate objective is to ensure that every learner has a textbook for every subject,” basic education minister Angie Motshekga told parliament on Wednesday.
The government plans to centralise textbook purchases and for the government to print more books itself. South Africa’s education system is managed at the provincial level.
Motshekga said the government aims to increase textbook coverage from 45 percent to at least 85 percent by 2014.