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Court bid to avoid school funding crisis

An Eastern Cape school together with the Centre for Child Law (CCL) have challenged in court the provincial education department’s decision to stop funding school pupils who did not have an official South African identity number.

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which is acting for the CCL and Phakamisa High School in Nelson Mandela Bay says an announcement was made in March last year that funding schools for everything from teacher salaries to the national school nutrition programme (NSNP) and textbooks would be based on pupil numbers. And only pupils with a valid South African identity, passport and permit numbers captured on the SA schools administration and management system would count.

“Many schools have already been affected by this announcement and do not have sufficient teachers or budget for LTSM and the NSNP,” LRC spokeswoman Claire Martens said. The LRC will argue that, by withdrawing funding, the provincial department was violating children’s constitutional right to basic education, dignity, equality and non-discrimination.

The funding failure is also a gross violation of the learners’ constitutional rights to basic nutrition.

The decision to exclude pupils without identity number, passports or permits was also not in the best interest of the child, Martens says.

In the past, schools were funded based on actual numbers of pupils, regardless of whether they had valid identity, passport and permit numbers.

Ironically, the LRC points out that without funding provided for pupils without identity, passport and permit numbers, most quintile 1 to 3 schools will have less to spend on pupils properly registered in the system, compromising their education and nutrition as well.

“To support those not registered in the system, schools will either have to fundraise for their shortfall or will ask unregistered learners to leave.”

According to court papers, a failure on the part of parents to register their child’s birth did not justify any action or decision adversely affecting the rights of pupils.

The court papers document the efforts by some schools, including Phakamisa High, that have done all in their power to assist pupils to obtain identity documents to finalise provisional pupil enrolment but are not able to do so.

The application is likely to have a far-reaching effect on school funding if successful. It seeks to have the decision by the department set aside and for the department to revise its post establishments and funding based on actual numbers of pupils in schools, regardless of their registration status.


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