THROUGH the patient, but anxious school governing body representatives, waiting for the court in Grahamstown to resume after its 10-minute recession, passed a shock wave as the legal counsel for the national minister of basic education requested postponement of the case, citing the minister as saying that this case was not urgent ("Northern areas parents, teachers in court protest”, July 13).
This was absurd and contrary to the constitutional rights of the child, the teacher and parents.
Yet in the ruling in the case in Limpopo, the following was stated: "The issues for determination are accordingly, firstly, that of urgency. Given the centrality of education in the constitutional framework that I have described, the fact that schools in Limpopo do not have textbooks as they approach the halfway mark of the academic year, in my view renders the matter urgent.
"A week or even a day is material under these circumstances. The nature of the relief they seek renders the matter sufficiently urgent.”
July 12 was meant to be the day that the vital hearing of the case on teacher post provisioning would be heard in the Grahamstown High Court. Hundreds of thousands of pupils’ education depends on a positive outcome to this case, and a finding as to whether the provincial and national government have violated their rights.
However, once again the minister of basic education and her department treated the court, and all the parties before the court, with contempt.
Despite having had more than a month to file an affidavit the minister delayed doing so. On July 10, the minister filed a brief answering affidavit associating herself with the provincial department’s case. She argued that the Section 100(1)(b) intervention required no less of her than to "authorise” the province to perform its existing obligations.
A day later, the heads of argument filed by the minister dealt only with the technical issue of urgency. She argued that because pupils had been without teachers for seven months, there was no reason to treat the matter as urgent at this late stage. However, at the end of argument her counsel conceded that not providing teachers or paying their salaries was urgent.
The provincial department sought to argue that because the applicants had not "joined” the Treasury, Sadtu and a large number of other interested parties, the application should be delayed until these interested parties could be joined as part of the proceedings.
The respondents wanted to separate out the issues of urgency and non-joinder, and wait for a ruling on their preliminary points before arguing the merits of the case. This would have had the effect of delaying the hearing of this case.
Judge Nomathamsanqa Beshe ruled that she would decide these issues after hearing full legal argument on all the facts and merits because this was in the "interests of justice and the matter was about the right to basic education”.
There should therefore not be any unnecessary delay in hearing the case.
After this ruling the government’s legal representatives immediately applied for an adjournment. The reason was immediately obvious: they had come to court unprepared to argue the case and assuming that they would win on the point of non-urgency.
This is reflected in their legal papers that were less than 10 pages long and devoid of argument on the real issues.
They dealt only with the argument that the appointment of teachers to teach pupils who have been without teachers for half the school year was not urgent.
The minister had been given the opportunity to respond to the facts and legal submissions in this case. She has had more than six weeks to respond to the applicants’ argument.
However, her legal representatives sought a postponement to allow them an opportunity to deal with additional facts. Although a postponement was vigorously opposed by the Centre for Child Law and the other applicants it was granted. A new court date has been set for July 26.
The consequence of the crisis of teacher shortages in the Eastern Cape is as grave as the crisis of textbooks in Limpopo and deserves equal outrage. School started again on Monday and, once again, pupils were at a massive disadvantage.
It is time for parents, pupils and teachers to stand up together and demand basic education. We call on parents and pupils to demonstrate their dissatisfaction, as well as to show the government and the judiciary that this matter – and other matters going to the core of basic education – is of extreme importance and is to be taken seriously.
The fact, Mrs Minister, that our teachers have not been paid and have been in school teaching reflects their passion and commitment to our children, our community at large and to us, the parents. Some of our schools are without textbooks.
Mrs Minister, it saddens one to think that you could have forgotten it was the right to quality education that cost the lives of the Hector Petersens, the George Bothas and the pupils unknown who paid the ultimate price.
Apartheid education secured a demonic ideology of separatism. This philosophy was entrenched through education.
When you set ceilings on education you are setting us up for cheap labour. This would secure the philosophy of Hendrik Verwoerd.
When you reflect that the call for quality education is not urgent you are setting us up never to share in the economic wealth of our country. What is the difference between 1976 and 2012?
The difference is in 1976 education was orchestrated by a supremacist white government and in 2012 by an arrogant government who seems to forget the key pillars of democracy, being a government by the people for the people.
In 1976 the poor were oppressed through bantustan education and in 2012 the poor are oppressed through non-delivery of quality education by liberated comrades.
In 1976 you were sent by the authorities to different departments of education, if you experienced an area of difficulty. In 2012 you are told to go to the district office. At the district office you are told to go to the Bhisho administration. At the Bhisho administration you are told it is out of its jurisdiction you have to go to the national administration.
Now we have to go to court. The courts are now running the affairs of the country.
When you have the ministry of education not being hands-on for seven months in Limpopo and children are without textbooks, what were you doing, Mrs Minister? How come you did not know this in the first quarter?
Where are your accountability structures? Why take a clerk to court for damage to property (and you should), but you need to tell us about the delivery from your service provider.
This province have been placed under administration. You are ultimately responsible for the placement and payment of our teachers. Pay the teachers!
We the ignored, the impoverished, the illiterate, the people without brains, the people who have no voice, for their voice is measured by their economic strength, have paid your temporary teachers in 10 schools to the value of R2-million from SGB funds. We do not need the courts to decide when to pay teachers, when to employ them permanently, or when textbooks should be given to the children. Make the decision, you are the leader.
If not, Mr President, we call on you to make the decision. Your team in education needs to make decisions and they are failing us.
We are not here to remove but to improve. To all our pupils, go to school. To all our teachers, continue teaching our children at school.
We, the parents, will take to the streets. We will agitate and lobby until quality education for all is achieved.
Neville Goldman, Port Elizabeth