While Parliament accepted the second version of the Limpopo education catch-up plan, it has learnt that several schools were still without textbooks.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education has accepted the academic catch-up plan for Limpopo pupils who were affected by the late delivery of textbooks.
Last week, parliamentarians chastised the department’s officials, rejecting the 10-point plan they presented, saying it was vague and lacked urgency. They called for a more definite plan.
On Tuesday, however, they had toned down their approach drastically and, with the exception of the Democratic Alliance, quickly accepted the plan although it showed very little change from what was presented last week.
The department's problems seem far from over, as it emerged during the meeting that books in indigenous languages in Limpopo were yet to be delivered to schools.
The department's Mathanzima Mweli said some books, "particularly XiTsonga and TshiVenda books" were only delivered to the central warehouse on Monday because the books were not available when orders were placed, as publishers didn't have them in stock at the time.
"To date, schools that had not received books would have been schools that offered XiTsonga, SePedi and TshiVenda," he said.
Mweli said the problem with the SePedi books in the foundation phase (Grades 1 to 3) was that there was a sole publisher in the province and his prices were unaffordable for the state, which resorted to producing additional learning and teaching support material from its own workbooks developers.
Still no books
Parliamentarians criticised the non-delivery of these books, with the DA’s Annette Lovemore saying she was "horrified" to hear that indigenous language books were still being delivered.
Basic education director general, Bobby Soobrayan, said the problem with African languages was that publishers were not producing the books in the area, putting an obligation on the state to do something. "We are going to produce through the state, books of high quality. Part of the problem is that the state was being ripped off because it's a monopoly, a sole supplier.
"The department considers the issue of African languages of utmost importance," said Soobrayan.
Mweli was adamant that “the late delivery of textbooks wouldn’t have in all instances adversely affected the teaching and learning as it has been suggested”.
Soobrayan added that there was “broad agreement” that teaching had taken place.
“The issue is about the extent of the teaching. Let us say unequivocally that it can't be that total teaching happened, that there is no problem that books were not delivered and it's not a big issue. Clearly there is an issue. The point is assessing the extent of the issue, which is what the minister [Angie Motshekga] is doing."
Committee chairperson, Hope Malgas, told the Mail & Guardian they changed their minds about the catch-up plan and accepted the report because "we have to give the department space to do their work".
"If we keep asking questions and calling them back and forth we are not giving them space to do their work. We need implementation to take place," said Malgas.
ANC MP Florence Mushwana said the issue of the late delivery of textbooks was deliberate and political and needed to be dealt with politically.
She said "a correct interpretation of the challenge is crucial" and Limpopo had been chosen as a lobbying ground for 2014.
"And because of that, cats and dogs and whatever will dance in Limpopo. Are we supposed to sit and say we are not aware that something is happening for 2014?
That is unfortunate because we are using the learners. Everything is undermined for political gains."