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Schools in Limpopo have filed an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria for an order that the Basic Education Department deliver by April 7 the 18 000 textbooks they have yet to receive.
The matter has been brought by lobby group Basic Education For All, through civil rights organisation Section27, and is to be heard on Tuesday.
The schools are also seeking an order directing the South African Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with the order granted by the court.
The applicants are seeking the full delivery of textbooks in the province to avert a repetition of the problems schools experienced in 2012, when some of the books were delivered in June and only following legal intervention.
In their founding affidavit, the schools said the first term had ended last week, yet a substantial number of textbooks for all grades had yet to delivered.
“All these textbooks are those prescribed under the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements,” the applicants said.
“Under this curriculum, the content and learning materials for each learning area have been revised.
“No textbooks or workbooks from the previous curriculum can be used.”
The applicants said it was essential the correct textbooks be used, in keeping with the curriculum.
Although textbook delivery had improved last year in comparison with 2012, it had not been completed for this year, the schools said.
The failure to deliver textbooks had affected the first term, which ended on March 28.
“The learners were forced to do their homework, prepare for their examinations and consolidate what they learned in class without their prescribed materials,” the applicants said.
“The textbook shortages also have a negative impact on the ability of teachers to discharge their duties, as they cannot do so effectively without the necessary materials.
“The teachers are forced to teach a new curriculum to learners with outdated textbooks or no textbooks at all.”
The applicants argued that the failure to deliver textbooks in time for the school year was a contravention of the constitution and breached pupils’ right to basic education as well as that to equality.
The schools said they had repeatedly engaged the respondents through their legal representative, Section27, to try to resolve the shortages.
“Our legal representatives provided whatever information had been requested by the respondents in an effort to facilitate complete textbook delivery. Despite this, textbook delivery remains incomplete.
“The second school term commences on April 7 and the continued violation of the rights of learners attending public schools in Limpopo cannot be allowed to continue into the second term.”
Pupils would be expected to begin preparations for their mid-year examinations in the second term, but could not do so without their prescribed learning materials.
When schools went to court in 2012, a judge found the department’s failure to deliver textbooks was in breach of pupils’ the right to basic education as well as their rights to equality and dignity.
The department was ordered to complete the deliveries by no later than June 15 of that year.
The applicants say the deliveries were not completed that year.