On Tuesday 2 December 2015 a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal delivered a beautiful, globally significant judgment. In essence it said that the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) failure to provide learners in Limpopo with their textbooks directly infringed on their rights to basic education, equality and dignity and amounted to unfair discrimination. The DBE’s appeal in the Limpopo textbooks saga was therefore dismissed and Basic Education For All’s (BEFA) cross appeal was upheld.
I have worked for years in an NGO using strategic litigation as a tool to protect women’s rights and I strongly believe that strategic litigation is a key tool for protecting Roma rights, too.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana held that Louisiana’s ‘Minimum Foundation Program’, which allocates educational funding to schools, could not be used to provide funding to privates schools by way of a voucher programme. It ruled that to do so violated article VIII, section 13 of the Louisiana Constitution, which establishes how monies are to be allocated to public schools based on a formula adopted by the state board of education.
In this decision, the Florida Supreme Court held that a voucher program providing public funds to students to obtain private education failed to comply with article IX, section 1 of the Florida Constitution, which requires the state government to make adequate provision for education through a uniform system of free public schools. This decision confirms Florida’s constitutional obligation to provide high quality, free public education – a duty that cannot be discharged by funding unregulated private schools through a voucher or scholarship program.
In this decision, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of section 12 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act), which requires all schools, both state-funded and private, to accept 25% intake of children from disadvantaged groups. However, the Court held that the RTE Act could not require private, minority schools to satisfy a 25% quota, as this would constitute a violation of the right of minority groups to establish private schools under the Indian Constitution.