Education Department taken to court over school furniture shortages – Legal Resources Centre

DBE taken to court over school furniture shortages in the Eastern Cape

Friday 19 October 2012

 The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has filed an application with the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha on behalf of the Centre for Child Law (CCL) and parents from three Eastern Cape schools. The matter is scheduled to be heard on Thursday 29 November 2012.

The three schools are Mpimbo Junior Secondary School in Libode District, Mbananga Junior Secondary in Cozwa Phezukwana village outside Mthatha, and Sirhudlwini Junior Secondary School in Mount Frere District.

The application is in two parts and seeks to (a) compel the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and the Eastern Cape Department of Education to provide furniture to the co-applicant schools within two months; and (b) ask for a new independent audit to be done and furniture provided to all those schools in the province needing furniture within three months of the updated audit being completed. According to an audit conducted by the EC DBE in 2011, approximately 1300 schools have insufficient furniture in the Eastern Cape affecting more than 600 000 learners. According to documents filed in the court application, the cost of ensuring that every learner has a desk and chair is approximately R274 million.

The conditions of learning at many schools are deplorable. In some instances, learners are compelled to stand or sit on the floor during lessons. Learners are often squashed four to a desk designed for two.  Broken furniture reduced to frames is still used in many schools. The lack of desk space means that writing exercises are impossible to complete, and workbooks and textbooks cannot be used effectively.

These challenges create a significant barrier to effective learning for thousands of learners. Schools affected by the shortage of furniture include primary schools, senior primary schools, junior secondary schools and high schools. The majority of the worse affected schools are located in poor rural areas in the former Transkei.

In her founding affidavit, Ann Skelton, the Director for CCL said “The case concerns the fundamental right to education as provided for in Section 29 of the Constitution. A central component of that right is the duty on the state to ensure the availability of desks and chairs for learners.

“The object of the application is therefore to ensure that the state fulfills its constitutional duty to ensure that every learner in grade R through grade 12 has an appropriate seat to sit on and a desk to write at in schools affected by the furniture shortages.

“While public schools receive money from the National Department of Education to procure items necessary to provide basic education, furniture is not budgeted for in the applications made to schools. The procurement and supply of furniture to schools is handled by the provincial department of education,” Skelton said.

The full notice of motion is available here and you can read the founding affidavit here.


NOTE: For more information please contact:

  • Khumbulani Mpofu, LRC’s Communications and Marketing Officer, 083 695 2025.
  •  Ann Skelton, Director of the Centre for Child Law, 082 443 2702.
  •  Cameron McConnachie , LRC attorney  in Grahamstown, 083 387 8738

The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable. 

The Centre for Child Law was established by the University of Pretoria in terms of a constitution and is a Law Clinic registered with the Law Society of the Northern Provinces.






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