South Africa

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa critical of distribution of free textbooks, finding breaches of the constitutional rights to equality and education

On 2 December 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa held in Minister of Basic Education v Basic Education for All that the failure of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provide free textbooks to all students in the Limpopo province breached the constitutional guarantees of equality, human dignity, and the right to a basic education. The Court’s powerful judgement is welcomed and is an important declaration that the right to education must be realised for all children in South Africa, including the predominantly poor black children in Limpopo’s public schools. 

Judgment on Equal Access to Textbooks

Summary from the judgment: Constitutional law – right to education in terms of s 29(1)(a) of the Constitution – content of right discussed – Department of Basic Education adopting clear national policy that each learner must be provided with a textbook for each subject before commencement of the academic year – Department failing to do so in respect of some learners in Limpopo – held that the Department had given content to s 29(1)(a) – right immediately realisable – held accordingly that the Department‟s failure to provide textbooks to each learner infringes their right to basic education