Following six years of persistent and ongoing engagement between the Minister of Basic Education, SECTION27 and our clients; the South African National Council for the Blind, the National Braille Authority and School Governing Bodies of schools for visually impaired learners, a settlement has been reached in litigation launched to compel the state to provide braille textbooks for all visually impaired learners.
The settlement agreement is in keeping with the principles established in the cases of Minister of Basic Education and Others v Basic Education for All and Others which held that every learner is entitled to a textbook in every subject at the commencement of each academic year. In this important judgment, Navsa J quoted Frederick Douglas saying “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”. This settlement agreement brings the prospect of freedom for these learners one step closer.
The agreement acknowledges;
- the right of every learner to receive their prescribed textbooks for every learning area at the commencement of each academic year. In this regard the parties recognise that this right is an essential component of the right to basic education as guaranteed by Section 29(1)(a)
- The right of every learner not to be discriminated against on any ground including race or disability, and
the right of every learner to human dignity.
- The agreement further requires the respondents to;
- Conduct an audit of blind and full service schools, the outcome of which will establish the number of learners using Braille at each school, a list of available (CAPS) curriculum aligned core list text books, as well as those that aren’t available.
The number of functioning and non – functioning braille production units as well as staff qualified to operate the braille production units at each school.
The audit for blind schools is required within 2 months of the settlement. The audit for full service schools is to be conducted within 5 months.
- The replication and delivery of braille textbooks for which a master copy already exists.
- For the 2018 academic year the government respondents are required to reproduce a sufficient number of each master copies by no later than Sept 2018 and ensure the full delivery of these textbooks to learners by no later than October 2018.
- For the 2019 academic year the government respondents must ensure complete delivery of prescribed braille textbooks by no later than 30 November 2019.
- Production of master copies where they do not exist
- The textbooks must be delivered within three months of the production of each textbook’s master copy
- As an interim plan, to mitigate against learners’ lack of access to prescribed learning materials, the government respondents will ensure that schools will have access to a functioning braille production unit, as well as trained and skilled staff to operate production units
- The Braille Advisory Committee set up by the Department of Basic Education will discuss matters regarding the quality and development of braille materials, production capacity, the impact of changes in curriculum in the production, and distribution of prescribed learning materials as well as any advancements in technology.This is a long overdue victory for our learners often left behind in the education system. This settlement agreement will ensure that the state takes all possible positive steps so that everyone has equal enjoyment and benefit of the right to basic education.
- For further details contact:
- Zukiswa Pikoli
011 356 4100