South Africa fails pupils on textbooks - court

Children at South African school State schools are blighted by inadequate facilities, poor teaching and low morale

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The South African government's failure to provide textbooks to all state school pupils violates their constitutional right to an education, the high court has ruled.

The case was brought by human rights activists on behalf of several schools in the Limpopo province.

The court in Pretoria gave the government until 15 June to supply the schools with the textbooks.

The government has admitted that 80% of state schools are failing.

In a recent report, it said 1,700 schools were without water and another 15,000 had no library.

The country's education system is also struggling to overcome corruption and maladministration and low morale among teachers, correspondents say.


On Thursday, Judge Jody Kollapen ruled that the matter of supplying textbooks to the affected Limpopo schools was urgent.

He ordered the department of basic education to come up with a "catch-up" plan to resolve the issue by 15 June.

Members of Section27, the rights group which brought the case, hailed the verdict.

It said that some 1.7m learners at more than 5,000 schools in Limpopo "will benefit" from the ruling.

But it blamed the country's education department for "not doing its core business".

"We want to work with them, but we also want them to stop their arrogance," Section27 director Mark Heywood was quoted as saying.

"They should not have arrogantly told this court that the catch-up plan was a monumental waste of time."

South African Education Minister Angie Motshekga has recently pledged that 85% of all pupils in the country's state schools will have all the necessary textbooks by 2014.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Governments across Africa don't collect enough tax. Only about 2% of the population of any African country pays tax.

    African govts simply don't have enough money to invest in public goods. Public schools included.

    That's why there's a great flourishing of private schools in Africa.

    If people want public goods, they must pay their taxes. It's no good just complaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Corruption and Incompetence are at the roots of shortage of learning material in South Africa. The strategic vision is being compromised because there are no committed implementers. The situation is going to be worse because each department is doing its thing; no effective supervision and coordination from the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    We run a voluntary homework support group for kids in a disadvantaged primary school in Cape Town and the Grade 7s still do not have text books. It's a mystery how kids are supposed to learn when they are already at a disadvantage!!! Their reading skills are abysmal. We really need considerable improvement in our education department!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I've no doubt that compared to schools in most other African countries, South African children are a lot better off. But congratulations on this attempt to raise standards even higher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Sadly, it is taking court order for Limpopo school to provide textbooks & libraries for all its students. SA may be the only African country that rival developed country in infrastructure & quality education. Nigeria had quality public education pre-independence & in the 70s. Today, public schools are woefully inadequate. Students bring their own textbooks &supplies.Some, their own desks & chairs


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