An urgent application by community-based organisation Basic Education For All (Befa) and 18 school governing bodies to compel the national and provincial education departments to deliver all outstanding textbooks to 39 Limpopo schools by April 7 was yesterday postponed in the North Gauteng High Court until tomorrow.
The applicants also want government to develop a plan to ensure full delivery of textbooks to all other schools in Limpopo and the Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with any court order.
The parties were given time to put new information before court and file heads of argument.
Judge Neil Tuchten earlier urged Befa and the education authorities to attempt to resolve the matter.
“At the root of all of this there are poor pupils who say they are without textbooks,” he said.
To a direct question if all of the textbooks had been delivered, the counsel for the education authorities, Chris Erasmus SC, said the shortfall had been ordered and deliveries were being made.
He said there was a budget issue involved but Befa’s counsel, Adila Hassim, said they disagreed it was a budgetary problem.
Judge Tuchten said he could not tell government how to allocate funds but he could order authorities to comply with their constitutional obligations.
Erasmus said the respondents had been at pains to point out in court papers that they had not been remiss in their constitutional duties.
There was no basis whatsoever on which the applicants could make a case that textbooks were not being delivered or that pupils were being prejudiced, he added.
Civil rights group Section27 in 2012 obtained a court order compelling education authorities to deliver all textbooks to Limpopo’s schools but had to go back to court twice because the order was not complied with.
Section27 said that four of the schools which initially joined Befa’s application had withdrawn as a result of intimidation.
Earlier this year, they commended the education authorities on the improved delivery of textbooks for 2014 after public claims that textbooks had been delivered in full and on time.
However, they realised there was still a problem when schools started complaining about textbook shortages.
Section27 said they had provided the Basic Education Department with seven comprehensive reports on the outstanding textbooks since the first day of school on January 15 this year.
But to date, these textbooks had still not been delivered and the department had failed to provide reasons.
Basic Education For All member Mirny Sephakgamela said in court papers that the continued delay constituted a serious violation of pupils’ rights to basic education, dignity and equality and couldcause them to suffer irreversible harm.