Still no books, despite departmental progress reports
The basic education department's progress reports on the provision of schoolbooks have failed to allay Parliament's concern about the picture nationally.
In addition, complaints from various provinces this week suggest that textbook and workbook shortages are not confined to Limpopo.
Hope Malgas, chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on basic education, said its members remained "concerned about the late arrival of workbooks and textbooks to schools after they had reopened at the beginning of the year".
In January, the committee visited 20 schools in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. It found that "persistent delay[s]" in the delivery of textbooks and workbooks to schools was one of the "major challenges that cut across the provinces visited". Schools such as Sesete Primary, Mathipe Secondary and Langa Secondary in Mpumalanga, Buntingville Primary and Zanokhanyo, Ngqeleni, Nogemane and Ntshilini secondary schools in the Eastern Cape and various Limpopo schools did not have learning materials for the new curriculum, the committee found.
There had been some progress in deliveries since January, Malgas said. But this week, teachers at three of the schools the committee visited – Sesete, Ntshilini and Zanokhanyo – told the Mail & Guardian they were still grappling with shortages.
North West also came into the picture this week when the South African Democratic Teachers' Union in the province launched a stinging attack on the provincial education department, saying textbooks, workbooks and stationary were all in short supply.
Thabo Sematle, the union's provincial deputy secretary, said some schools in Ottosdal had struggled with insufficient workbooks throughout terms one and two and had "not received term three and four workbooks to date". "We raised the issue with the department earlier in the year," Sematle said. "As a union, we are embarrassed it is yet to be dealt with."
But Gershwin Chuenyane, spokesperson for the North West education department, rejected Sadtu's claims. "We concede that we don't have 100% textbooks, but we have 98%. There is no wholesale crisis of textbooks in the province."
The Free State is also experiencing problems, according to the National Professional Teachers' Association of South Africa. Two weeks ago, the association sampled 45 schools and found 27 had textbook shortages.
Louwrens Strydom, the association's chief executive in the Free State, said: "The [survey's] breakdown per school shows that in all types of schools – but not in all schools – there are shortages, with some schools not having received books in some subjects.
"In the foundation phase, some schools are still waiting for books. The more affluent schools can buy books and carry on, but the poorer schools are in trouble."
In Mpumalanga, Vukuzame, a secondary school outside KwaMhlanga, has had to do without life orientation textbooks in grade 11. A teacher said the school had not had the books since 2007. "We went all out trying to get the textbooks from the department, but they have never been delivered," said the teacher.
In Gauteng, a teacher on the West Rand said: "There is a general [learning materials] shortage across the country. I'm in a school where grade five learners did not have workbooks for terms two and three."
For more on the education crisis read our special report at mg.co.za/curriculum