Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has set up a specialised task team to oversee an intensive audit of the furniture needs of all provincial schools and to ensure these needs are met.
A preliminary audit completed at the end of 2015 indicated that at least 2108 schools in the Eastern Cape needed some 549866 items of school furniture.
The province’s acting education superintendent-general, Sizakele Netshilaphala, says in an affidavit that the 2108 schools – more than a third of the schools in the province – had serious furniture shortages.
Netshilaphala was filing her affidavit in compliance with a January order of the Mthatha High Court requiring her to provide a consolidated list of the furniture needs of all schools in the Eastern Cape.
The Centre for Child Law (CCL) has been embroiled in litigation against the department on the issue of school furniture since 2011.
The CCL’s legal representatives, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) yesterday said in an affidavit that although the list of furniture needs was a positive development, the department had acknowledged it was inaccurate.
“The inaccuracies in the list highlight ongoing dysfunctions in the department’s systems for managing information about schools’ physical resources.
“Addressing these will be crucial for resolving the province’s furniture shortages in the long run.”
Motshekga’s specialised task team is supported by 10 officials from her department, 23 officials from the Eastern Cape education department and a further 128 unemployed graduates who have been trained by the department to conduct the school auditing process.
It will entail visiting every public school in the province, said the LRC.
The department reported that in response to court orders in 2012, 2013 and 2014 the department had, since July 2015, delivered some 390000 pieces of school furniture to schools.
The LRC said it was regularly meeting with the department’s task team to ensure that the August 31 deadline for the completed audit is met.
The Mthatha High Court has directed the department to ensure that all schools have sufficient grade-appropriate furniture by April next year.
“The CCL and the LRC are hopeful that the department will fulfil its obligations by that time.”