Fighting To Learn


The right to education that enables effective learning for life and livelihood is vital for democracy and development. Education is a fundamental human right recognised globally in international and regional legal instruments. The incorporation of the right into national legal frameworks means that in many jurisdictions, it is a justiciable right. Courts are given the means to hold governments to account when they fail to ensure the realisation of the right to education.

The South African Constitution explicitly incorporates socio-economic rights which means, if the rights are not met, the state can be challenged through the courts. The Legal Resources Centre has embarked on extensive constitutional litigation to give content to these rights, advance their implementation and hold the government to account for failing to realise them.

In particular, the Constitution incorporates the right to education which is an immediately realisable right. The huge discrepancies in the South African education system have their roots in the apartheid era, when education was separate and deeply unequal. The systemic disadvantages were ingrained under this system, and although some signi cant steps have been taken, the fundamental and structural factors perpetuating disadvantage have not been adequately addressed. The cases set out in this book represent steps forward in closing these gaps. These cases also draw attention to the need for – and seek to enable – more effective interventions in order to ensure that all South African children are able to realise their right to an education, regardless of their background.

It is necessary that these interventions also enable schools, teachers, parents, communities and pupils to become more actively engaged in planning, improving and monitoring the education system.

Fighting to Learn… reflects on the work the LRC has undertaken to build on matters pursued and covered in the first edition of Ready to Learn? published in November 2013. The first publication – intended primarily as a legal resource – sets out in detail the background to litigation undertaken in respect of education. This second publication updates the reader on many of those cases, as well as providing a more general reflection on the role of education in the global development agenda.

Litigation is one of many tools that can be used to advance human rights. Court action must be used in conjunction with other advocacy methods and should be a last resort, where less adversarial methods have been tried and failed. It is hoped that practitioners in different jurisdictions can benefit from this book and use it as a resource in successfully litigating the right to education.