A not so happy new year

Many students in the Eastern Cape began 2000 with no textbooks

Four to one: Headmaster of Benjamin Mahlasela High school Siphiwo Baninzi (left) says four pupils crowd around one textbook.

photo: gerald meintjies

WONGELETHU Senior Secondary in Mdantsane was one of the lucky schools which received textbooks by January 18, helping to alleviate shortages of up to 90%. But many schools were not as lucky.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said Valencia Hardy, acting principal at Umtata’s Zimele Junior Secondary, when asked whether textbooks had arrived. In Bedford, Cradock and Somerset East, no textbooks had been delivered, with district officers reporting they had yet to receive books.

African National Congress chief whip Sicelo Gqobana, who was part of a multi-party delegation which visited schools across the Eastern Cape, said some teachers did not even have books to prepare lessons with. And the official verdict from education standing committee chair Sonwabile Mancotywa was that textbooks had not been delivered on the first day of school.

Mancotywa blamed service providers for the failure to deliver textbooks and the late delivery of stationery, saying no proper planning had taken place. A lack of funds in the province meant the R80-million order for textbooks and stationery was placed late.

Department of Education representative Phaphama Mfenyana said the Eastern Cape had given itself until January 25 to complete the delivery of textbooks and stationery to schools. Although this date fell outside the deadline of the first day of the new school year, Mfenyana said Minister of Education Kader Asmal had granted provinces a seven-day grace period.

But a lack of textbooks was just one of the problems experienced as education standing committee members reported absenteeism, lack of motivation by learners, poor infrastructure and conflicts between schools and communities as stumbling blocks to learning and teaching.

The statistics show that of the 879 secondary schools in the province which offered matric classes in 1999, only 273 achieved a 50% or more pass rate. Education MEC Stone Sizani announced: “Principals of schools that repeat their poor performance, and fail to produce a minimum 50% matric pass rate or at least generate significant improvements, are clearly not capable of providing the educational leadership and management role required.”

— Eastern Cape News Agency, February 3, 2000.

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