/ 6 September 2012

Still no textbooks: Section 27 takes Angie to court again

Hundreds of Limpopo pupils are still without textbooks.
Hundreds of Limpopo pupils are still without textbooks.

Rights organisation Section 27 filed papers at the North Gauteng High Court on Monday after it emerged that hundreds of Limpopo pupils are still without textbooks and are facing an inadequate departmental catch-up plan.

The organisation decided to go back to court after the basic education department failed to comply with two court orders forcing it to deliver textbooks to Limpopo schools that had been without books since the beginning of the school year. It also ordered that an adequate catch-up plan be implemented.

"We have tried to follow up with the department on delivery of textbooks, implementation of a meaningful catch-up plan and the state of procurement for textbooks for 2013 but they have not responded to any of our correspondence … we have no other choice but to go back to court," Section 27 attorney, Nikki Stein, told the Mail & Guardian.

The papers were filed at 11am.

The 17 May court order ruled that the department's failure to provide pupils with textbooks was a violation of the right to basic education. It ordered the department to deliver textbooks to pupils in grades R, one, two, three and 10, who were the first targets in the roll-out of a new curriculum by June 15. When the department failed to meet this deadline, a new deadline of June 27 was set and made an order of the court.

But according to supporting affidavits from nine schools, many textbooks are still needed in classrooms.

Lutandale Primary School "has received no textbooks at all for its foundation phase learners", the court papers read.

Hanyani Thomo Secondary School "is still awaiting textbooks for grade 10 pupils in computer application and technology, mathematics, physical science and visual arts and has also not received the correct quantity of textbooks for life science [and] Afrikaans".

When the June 27 deadline passed and reports continued to pour in from schools that had not received textbooks, the department and Section 27 instituted an independent verification of how many books had been received. Although the team was unable to make an accurate assessment of status at the time, in a sample of 411 schools it announced on July 16 that only 15% of books had been delivered to these schools by the deadline.

The new application seeks to force the minister to conduct a full independent verification of which schools are still waiting for textbooks and to complete the delivery of textbooks to all schools by October 31.

The department’s current catch-up plan, “does not address the prejudice suffered by learners” because, among other reasons, it “does not provide for extra tuition time for learners and content knowledge support for teachers”, Stein says in her founding affidavit.

The new catch-up plan would also need to extend to November 2013, the affidavit said, and although it was initially ordered only to address grade 10 pupils' needs, it would need to include grades one, two and three pupils too.

The application also wants the court to order Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to ensure the delivery of all textbooks for all grades for 2013 by January 9.

"At the date of signing this affidavit, the third school term is almost complete. It is unlikely that the prejudice suffered by learners throughout Limpopo will be addressed even if textbooks for this year are delivered immediately and an effective catch-up plan is put in place to support learners for the remainder of the academic year," Stein’s affidavit said.

"Learners in the foundation phase will be required to prepare for the Annual National Assessments and the end-of-year examinations [for all grades] within an unrealistic time period. They would not have had the necessary support materials to prepare for these assessments."

Annual national assessments, which measure pupils' levels of literacy and numeracy, are due to start on 18 September.

Spokesperson for the department, Panyaza Lesufi, said he had not seen the court papers so could not comment.

Speaking to eyewitness news on Sunday Lesufi said the catch-up plan was in "full swing".

He apparently accused Section 27 of meddling in teachers duties saying: "Teachers are the ones that teach in classroom, lawyers go to court. Why do the lawyers want to develop a catch-up plan for teachers?"