Court to get education department to deliver textbooks

The department blames “unprecedented budget shortfalls” for the delay

By Lucas Nowicki

4 March 2022

Archive photo: Loyiso Dyongman

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

The case is expected to be heard on 15 March.

“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,” Petros Majola from the Khula Development Project said in the court papers.

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 LRC.

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

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.

“Schools are therefore requested to utilise stationery that was provided in 2021 until they receive their 2022 consignments,” the department said in the memo.

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

Ngqina, in an affidavit, said that she is unemployed and cannot afford to buy stationary for her children.

“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,” said Ngqina.

She said that DD Siwisa has not received the 100 textbooks it ordered, which means that teachers have to rely on constantly making 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 respond 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 in a statement said that the failure to provide the learner 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.