Port Elizabeth - The department of basic education was ordered to address the lack of furniture in Eastern Cape schools on Thursday, the Legal Resources Centre said.
The Mthatha High Court ordered the basic education minister and the national and provincial departments to address the furniture crisis in 90 days, the centre said in a statement.
“The court rejected the government’s budgetary defence that there were insufficient funds to provide every learner in the province with a desk and a chair and re-emphasised the immediate nature of the learners’ constitutional right to basic education,” the LRC said in a statement.
“The court also rejected the government’s submissions that they could not budget until they were completely certain of the exact extent of the furniture needed.”
The Independent Development Trust was ordered to finalise an audit of school furniture requirements in the province by February 28.
The LRC said if the department believed it would not be able to make the 90-day deadline, it would have to apply to the court for an extension.
“The judgment finally lays to rest any lingering doubts about the nature of the right to basic education,” said LRC lawyer Cameron McConnachie, for the Centre for Child Law and seven schools.
“It is clear that the right is immediately realisable and the department must get its house in order to ensure that everything necessary for its fulfilment and enjoyment is provided. Adequate furniture is necessary.”
He said the department could not “shrink its obligations” and cite budget shortages as an excuse.