Reflections from the Inaugural OxHRH-Rhodes University Fellow

by | Jan 13, 2017

In August 2016, the James Rooney (BCL, Oxford) travelled to Grahamstown, South Africa as the inaugural OxHRH-Rhodes University Fellow. This fellowship was created through a partnership of the  Faculty of Law at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, the OxHRH and the Legal Resource Centre, Grahamstown, South Africa (LRC). Here James Rooney reflects on his time in South Africa:

I have been the Oxford Human Rights Hub/Rhodes University Travelling Fellow since August 2016. I work part-time at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), one of South Africa’s pre-eminent public interest law firms; and part time at the Law Faculty of Rhodes University.

At Rhodes, I have lectured on the right to education in various jurisdictions, and have written an article which looks at how class action and public interest standing in South Africa, and how these forms of standing can ensure greater rights protection for marginalised groups in society.

For the Legal Resources Centre I have been involved both in the construction of new cases, and the monitoring of compliance with court orders already handed down. I have predominantly been working on cases concerning breach of the right to basic education under S29 of the Constitution of South Africa. The office has been investigating the Department of Education’s decision to only fund learners with identification, such as birth certificates. Many learners, particularly poorer learners from remote areas, do not possess ID, meaning that schools with a high proportion of such learners which are financially in-need anyway are being seriously underfunded. I have visited some of the worst affected schools to document the effects underfunding is having on these schools. I have also been monitoring the enforcement of the court order in Madzodzo v Minister for Education, the LRC-run case which ordered the Department of Education to conduct a school furniture audit for all schools in the Eastern Cape, and to resolve all outstanding furniture deficits by 1 April 2017. I have helped analyse the furniture audit’s finding and have estimated the cost of compliance with the order.

My work for the LRC has also brought me to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, where a potentially precedential case determining whether the right to housing under the Constitution allows tenants to make necessary improvements to their housing without the consent of the homeowner was litigated by our office.

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