Ricochet News

DBE gets new court order in ongoing Eastern Cape 'schools furniture saga'

Jan 27, 2016
DBE gets new court order in ongoing Eastern Cape 'schools furniture saga'

The National Department of Basic Education (DBE) must now form a Task Team, assess school fur­ni­ture needs of all East­ern Cape schools, and deliver all the fur­ni­ture needed 30 April 2017.

This is according to an order made by agree­ment between the Min­is­ter and the Cen­tre for Child Law (CCL), rep­re­sented by the Grahamstown-based Legal Resources Cen­tre on Tuesday. This is the fourth court order to be made in the school fur­ni­ture saga that has been plagu­ing schools in the province for years.

Accord­ing to one list com­piled by the East­ern Cape Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion (ECDOE) in 2014, almost 40% of the province’s 5,700 schools needed fur­ni­ture.

"Court orders in 20122013, and 2014 in Mad­zodzo and seven oth­ers v the Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion and four oth­ers have all resulted in more than 200 000 units of fur­ni­ture being deliv­ered to schools in the East­ern Cape," the LRC said in a statement.

"But many schools con­tinue to have learn­ers sit­ting on the floor, sit­ting on makeshift seats made from bricks and paint tins, or sit­ting four to a desk designed for two. It is hardly sur­pris­ing that the East­ern Cape Province had one of the worst matric pass rates at the end of 2015."

The Centre said that the  2014 judg­ment by Judge Goosen in Mad­zodzo ordered the Min­is­ter to respond to the fur­ni­ture short­ages endemic to schools in the province.

"The judg­ment was sig­nif­i­cant in its reaf­fir­ma­tion that edu­ca­tion is an imme­di­ately real­is­able right and that fur­ni­ture forms part of that right. It also high­lighted that resource and bud­get con­straints are not an accept­able excuse where a con­sti­tu­tional right is being vio­lated, espe­cially when the Min­is­ter knows about the vio­la­tion of the right and the short­age of infra­struc­ture.

"While the 2014 judg­ment directed the Min­is­ter to deliver all fur­ni­ture required by schools in the province by 30 May 2014, the court also gave the Min­is­ter an oppor­tu­nity to approach the court for an exten­sion of the time­frame," it described.

"The court order handed down today is a com­bi­na­tion of the Minister’s appli­ca­tion for an exten­sion, and the CCL’s counter appli­ca­tion for sys­temic relief in the form of a new audit, pub­li­ca­tion of the audit find­ings, report­ing require­ments, and a spec­i­fied date for deliv­ery of all fur­ni­ture." 

Accord­ing to the affi­davits filed by the state in this mat­ter, approx­i­mately R300 mil­lion has been allo­cated to fur­ni­ture pro­duc­tion and deliv­ery since the incep­tion of the lit­i­ga­tion, and 280 140 units of fur­ni­ture have been deliv­ered to schools.

There have been five attempts to audit fur­ni­ture needs in the East­ern Cape (four by ECDOE and one by the Inde­pen­dent Devel­op­ment Trust) but the data pro­duced has always been seri­ously flawed [see fact sheet attached].

"Today’s court order requires the Min­is­ter to appoint a fur­ni­ture task team to pre­pare a con­sol­i­dated list of fur­ni­ture needs of all pub­lic schools in the East­ern Cape and to pub­lish it on the ECDOE or Depart­ment of Basic Edu­ca­tion web­site by 31 May 2016. This list will need to be ver­i­fied by 31 August 2016 and the Min­is­ter is required to ensure that those schools need­ing fur­ni­ture receive the age and grade appro­pri­ate fur­ni­ture by 1 April 2017," LRC said.

"The CCL and the LRC wel­come the lat­est court order. Although the order does not appoint an inde­pen­dent body to ensure per­for­mance as was requested by the CCL in its counter appli­ca­tion, it is hoped that this order will be com­plied with and that East­ern Cape learn­ers’ right to a basic edu­ca­tion in a prop­erly equipped envi­ron­ment will be upheld."