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SAHRC: Textbook saga violated rights

The commission concluded its year-long investigation into learning material shortages in schools.

A worker places a sticker on workbooks for the 2013 academic year. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Basic Education's failure to ensure the delivery of textbooks to pupils is a violation of their rights, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found on Tuesday.

The commission concluded its year-long investigation into learning material shortages in schools across the country.

It will present its findings to the department soon.

A non-governmental organisation took officials to court twice over the shortages in a bid to compel officials to deliver books to Limpopo schools.

Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate says, "It will be fair to say the childrens' enjoyment of the right to basic education was affected."

She says this is largely because the department doesn't have a credible procurement and distribution system.

"Consequently, this makes it difficult for national government to track, monitor and verify provincial and school expenditure on learning materials."

Mokate said principals at many schools did not physically verify whether textbooks had in fact been delivered.

The SAHRC recommended disciplinary measures be taken against these principals in order to increase levels of accountability.

The commission also found vast disparities in how departments in each of the nine provinces dealt with the shortages.

It recommended the delivery system be standardised to avoid future shortages.

The SAHRC also suggested that an independent audit be undertaken.