ECape Dept of Education meets first school furniture delivery deadline

JULY 19, 2016

The Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) met the first deadline set by the Mthatha High Court in January 2016 in the ongoing school furniture litigation that was brought by the Centre for Child Law, represented by the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown.

"The Acting Superintendent-General, Netshilaphala, has filed an affidavit which includes a consolidated list of the furniture needs of all schools in the Eastern Cape based on information provided by provincial district directors under oath in 2015," the LRC said on Monday.

"The list has identified 2 108 schools with school furniture shortages – more than a third of schools in the province. According to the list, Eastern Cape schools need a total of 549 866 pieces of school furniture. The consolidated list has been uploaded to the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s website."

According to the LRC, this is a positive step towards ensuring that all the schools in the Eastern Cape are provided with enough school furniture for all their learners.

The January 2016 court order follows court orders from 2012, 2013 and 2014 confirming that school furniture forms part of a learner’s constitutional right to education.

"In partial compliance with these court orders, the department reports that, since July 2015, approximately 390 000 pieces of school furniture have been delivered or are in the process of being delivered to schools in the Eastern Cape," the LRC said.

"While the publication of the list is a positive development, the LRC and the ECDOE acknowledge that this list is inaccurate. The inaccuracies in the list high-light ongoing dysfunctions in the department’s systems for managing information about schools’ physical resources; and addressing these will be crucial for resolving the province’s furniture shortages in the long run.

"To ensure that an accurate list is compiled, a specialised task team has been set up by the Minister of Basic Education to oversee an intensive auditing process and ensure furniture is delivered to all the schools in need. The task team is supported by 10 officials from the Department of Basic Education and 23 officials from the Eastern Cape Department of Education. A further 128 unemployed graduates have been trained by the ECDOE to conduct the school auditing process and visit every public school in the province."

The LRC and the Department’s task team are currently meeting regularly and working towards the next deadline of 31 August2016, by which the consolidated list is to be revised based on the completed audit.

The January 2016 court order directs the Department to ensure that all schools have sufficient grade-appropriate furniture by 1April 2017. 

"The CCL and the LRC are hopeful that the Department will fulfil its obligations by that time," the organisation said.