The Council of Education Ministers has dismissed criticism against Minister Angie Motshekga, saying the media created a misleading impression.
Provincial education ministers on Thursday dismissed criticism against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga over the the Limpopo textbook crisis, downplaying the non-delivery of textbooks and said that great achievements have been made during her reign.
"The Council of Education Ministers today has unequivocally affirmed great achievements made in basic education in the last three years," it said at a press briefing in Pretoria.
It noted "with deep disappointment unwarranted media attacks" on the basic education sector and Motshekga and "reaffirms its support, confidence and leadership of the minister".
This week the minister faced mounting calls for her resignation over the highly publicised non-delivery of textbooks to thousands of Limpopo learners. The crisis was catapulted into the public’s attention by a court order secured by rights organisation Section 27 in May, ruling that textbooks for grades one, two, three and 10 pupils should reach all schools by no later than June 15 – a deadline the department clearly missed.
The council shifted the blame for the debacle away from Motshekga saying media reports “have led the public to believe that competency of procuring textbooks is the responsibility of the national department while such rests with the provinces”.
“[T]o drag the entire sector to the limitations and gaps of Limpopo is unfair particularly in view of the fact that the presidential task team is still probing the causes of the problem”.
It downplayed the non-delivery of textbooks, saying the impression created by the media that all children in Limpopo did not receive books and tuition is "misleading".
"Only learners in Grades 1-3 and 10 were affected. At her meeting with school principals in Limpopo principals have confirmed that teaching has been taking place since January."
This week Motshekga launched a hotline to establish how many hundreds of Limpopo learners are still without textbooks to date, seven months into the school year.
The council included in the basic education department’s list of victories such as the improvement of the matric pass rate for two consecutive years, the attainment of unqualified audits, and the provision of free workbooks to learners.
A departmental invitation on Thursday morning stated that Motshekga, accompanied by provincial education ministers, would host the briefing. But upon arrival journalists discovered that this was not the case.
The department’s spokesperson, Panyaza Lesufi, told the Mail & Guardian that the council "took the decision that she must not attend the meeting because they wanted it to be about them and not about Angie".
"It took that resolution after the invitation was sent out," he said.
Media were addressed, instead, by the deputy minister, Enver Surty.
Three investigations, including one by a presidential task team, have been conducted into the Limpopo textbook debacle.
Surty told the briefing that the task team had presented an interim report to President Jacob Zuma and would release afinal report "later".