The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that the Mpumalanga education department violated the constitution, the right to basic education, when it failed to provide some schoolchildren with textbooks.
Responding to a complaint laid by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the SAHRC said, it “had determined that there is a prima facie violation of children’s right to basic education in Mpumalanga”.
The SAHRC said: “Having considered the department’s 2017/2018 annual report, the commission noted that on page 24 of the report, the department admitted to not being able to meet its target relating to the provision of learning and teaching support material – which should be at 100%”.
The rights body said it was of the view that this matter was in the public interest.
It gave the department until 12 March to respond to the allegations that it was in breach of section 29 of the country’s supreme law. However, the deadline came and went without the department responding.
Commenting on the findings on Tuesday, DA Mpumalanga premier candidate, Jane Sithole, said: “In October last year, the DA lodged a complaint with the SAHRC, after we found that there was a severe shortage of textbooks in Mpumalanga schools.”
She said in its annual report for the 2017/18 financial year the provincial education department stated that only 63% of learners had been provided with the required textbooks in all grades.
“This meant that 68.74% or 679,837 learners in Mpumalanga did not have all the required textbooks in the 2017/18 financial year,” said Sithole.
“Although last week, the department suspended its HOD Mahlasedi Mhlabane on allegations of maladministration, after sustained pressure from the DA, this will not fix the situation learners find themselves in until each learner has all the required textbooks.
“By abandoning learners at such a crucial stage of their development, the Mpumalanga department of education is systematically killing the future of thousands of young people and ensuring that they too end up joining the ranks of the unemployed,” said Sithole.