Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has denied blame for a delay in the delivery of textbooks to Limpopo schools, saying she would not quit.
“I have not considered resigning,” she told reporters in Polokwane.
“The best I can do is sort out what I started. I won’t jump ship.”
A number of factors contributed to the delay, including cash flow and administrative problems, she said at a televised press briefing, maintaining her innocence.
“I trust my officials. I had no reason to doubt them. I won’t put my head on the block ... and leave my children motherless.
“The head of the institution, he has the ultimate responsibility. The buck stops with him.”
She said it was apparent that the previous administrator underestimated the magnitude of the deliveries. He was instructed in February to order textbooks, but delayed doing so.
“This put us under extreme pressure ... In April there still was no books, so I replaced him,” the minister said.
In May, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled the department’s failure to provide textbooks violated the Constitution. The application was brought by rights organisation Section 27.
Judge Jody Kollapen ordered the department to devise a catch-up plan to remedy the consequences of the delay, and to supply the affected schools with textbooks by June 15.
The department failed to meet the court’s deadline, but Motshekga said her department had met with Section 27 and agreed to move the deadline to June 27.
The minister said the department had accepted an offer from a company called UTI to help them deliver the textbooks. The company provided them with resources including trolleys, horses and trailers. A recovery plan had also been put in place so children could recover lost time.
“It is a comprehensive catch-up plan,” she said.
This included a winter programme for Grade 12 pupils and Saturday classes. Other grades would have their own plan, depending on what textbooks they did not get.
The minister maintained that not all learning was lost as some topics in the new curriculum were also in the old curriculum.
The national department took over the running of Limpopo’s education department in December following maladministration.
The Democratic Alliance on Thursday offered a fleet of vehicles to the minister to help deliver the textbooks, but the offer was declined.
A Limpopo high school principal told the Mail & Guardian this week that if he had his way, his school’s grade 10 pupils “would all repeat the class”.
Some pupils in Limpopo – in grades one to three as well as 10, have still not received textbooks six months into the year.
The principal – who spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity – said his grade 10 pupils had already been failed by “the system” because so much learning time had been wasted.
He said the absence of textbooks and teaching materials meant that “meaningful” learning had not really taken place since schools opened.
“If it was possible, and if I had my way, they would all repeat the class,” the principal said of the grade 10 pupils, because they had not received “quality lessons”.
He said his teachers at the school in rural Ga-Modjadji had “improvised” and only taught “the basics” of the grade 10 syllabus – “just what we thought would be relevant for the exam”.
The national department took over administration of Limpopo’s education in December. The non-governmental organisation Section 27 took the provincial education department to court to compel it to deliver textbooks as soon as possible, and North Gauteng High Court Judge Jody Kollapen ruled in May that all schools in the province had to have their textbooks by June 15.
At Masopha Secondary School, principal Ronald Moroatshehla, who spoke to the M&G in his capacity as provincial chairperson of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), said grade 10 textbooks had only been delivered on Tuesday evening. However, grade 10 learners in the district completed their exams on Wednesday, finishing with an accounting paper.
A group of grade 10 boys from Masopha told the M&G of the difficulties of preparing for mid exams without textbooks.
Hard to study
The pupils said they were aware that they needed new textbooks that supported the curriculum and assessment policy statements (Caps), a new curriculum the government is phasing in. They said they had to rely on notes their teachers wrote on the blackboard. Teachers copied some pages from Caps textbooks and distributed them in class, they said.
But “it’s hard to study for an exam without a textbook”, said one pupil. Another said: “It’s because they have not brought the Caps textbooks that studying is difficult.”
Moroatshehla said Sadtu’s major worry was that the education department had not committed to a winter catch-up programme, which usually starts in the first week after schools close for the July holiday. “Funding is needed for winter schools, but nothing is forthcoming.”
Kollapen also ruled that Motshekga had to submit plans detailing how pupils would catch up with their work. Her plans apparently do not include winter classes or extra lessons, but the department has committed itself to providing study guides to both pupils and teachers.
This approach was adopted because “face-to-face teaching during the winter recess is not viable, because grade 11 teachers will be receiving training on Caps”, the department submitted in its court document. The curriculum will be introduced in grade 11 in 2013. “A substantial number of grade 10 teachers also teach grade 11 and 12 classes,” it said.
Nikki Stein, an attorney at Section 27, said the NGO was now considering going back to court to argue for contempt of court charges against the department, which had not responded to the M&G’s questions by the time of going to press. - Additional reporting by Sapa