The Department of Basic Education and lobby group Section27 remain at loggerheads over an alleged textbook shortage in Limpopo and have vowed to wage battle in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday.
When the matter was called on Tuesday morning, Judge Neil Tuchten asked the parties to stand down to try to find a solution.
At the start of the proceedings, he asked Chris Erasmus, SC, for the department, whether all the textbooks had been delivered yet.
Erasmus said that “the shortfall is being delivered, but there are budgetary issues”.
Judge Tuchten responded: “I cannot tell the state how to allocate funds, but I can make an order if it (fails to) fulfil its constitutional obligations.”
The judge questioned whether the parties could not come to some kind of arrangement.
Erasmus said the department had no problem with negotiating in good faith with the applicants.
The applicants denied that the textbook shortage was because of budgetary constraints, their advocate, Adila Hassim, said.
She expressed her willingness to negotiate.
She said the facts of the issue were not in dispute, but there were a number of legal differences.
Judge Tuchten responded that “at the heart of this are poor children who say they don’t have textbooks”.
Erasmus said “we are not failing the children”.
Negotiations proved fruitless, and the parties returned to court after a while. Erasmus told the judge they would not find common ground.
The department said it wanted to file further papers.
The SA Human Rights Commission, which has entered the fray, is also to file an affidavit.
Hassim said the matter was urgent as schools were to reopen next week.
Judge Tuchten said everyone who needed to file further papers must do so, as the matter was attracting a lot of publicity and all the facts should be on the table.
He vowed to see the matter through, even if he had to sit during his holiday next week.
Basic Education for All, Section27 and 22 schools are asking the court to order the department to deliver all textbooks not yet received by schools in Limpopo. They say there are significant shortages of textbooks for this year.
Tebogo Sephakgamela, a member of Basic Education for All, said in court papers that when the first quarter ended, a large number of textbooks for all grades had not been delivered.
These textbooks had been prescribed under the new curriculum. Sephakgamela said the new curriculum had revised the content and study material for each area.
This meant none of the textbooks from previous years could be used.
It is said that the affected schools are short of about 18 000 books.
The department acknowledged that some schools had reported shortages in February.
It said orders had been made and books delivered.