State schools foot government’s bill

State schools have had to spend thousands of rands from their own budgets making photocopies of the annual national assessment tests (ANAs) — despite the department of basic education spending more than R12-million to outsource the job.

In November last year the department called for bids to “print, distribute and store” the ANAs. It then awarded the contract to a joint venture between Lebone Litho Printers, Paarl Media and City Deliveries for R12.3- million.

But dozens of schools have told the Mail & Guardian that they were left to print or photocopy test papers themselves at the beginning of February after department district offices did not have the correct number of papers available.

ANA tests measure pupils’ foundation skills in literacy and numeracy. They provide the department with a national snapshot of education performance.

A principal from a school in Botshabelo in the Free State said R1 050 had been spent on photo- copying the test papers. “I tried to communicate with the district office, but they gave us no explanation. I had to run around the district using my own transport to try to get the papers copied in time.”

At least five different principals from the Free State also complained about having to foot the bill for making their own copies.

Lebone Litho and Paarl were also awarded a R250-million contract at the end of 2010 to publish and distribute maths and English workbooks to all government schools.

Last month the M&G flagged a potential conflict of interest between Lebone Litho and the department.

Basic education director general Bobby Soobrayan is engaged to Fathima Hendricks, the daughter of former education department official Salama Hendricks, who co-owns Lebone Group Holdings, a sister company of Lebone Litho.

The department said that Soobrayan had nothing to do with the awarding of either tender.

A principal from a primary school in Boksburg told the M&G that his school received only a few copies of the papers. “For the rest they gave us a CD and we had to print them ourselves. It cost us a lot of money.”

Another principal in Mamelodi said: “We were referred to other schools to get the original to make a copy from them. The district officers told us the problem was at a national level.”

Ezrah Ramasehla, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said: “We have heard of schools in Gauteng in particular which have had to copy the tests themselves. School A would get some of the papers but school B wouldn’t. So we had situations where school B would have to go to school A and make photocopies.”

Lebone chief executive Keith Michael said this was yet another case of people causing “mischief” against his company. Michael referred queries to the department.

Department of education spokesperson Granville Whittle told the M&G that they “are aware” that schools were given CDs to print their own papers, saying only that “this happened in certain instances”.

Asked whether the tender had been changed in relation to whether schools would have to photocopy or print their own ANA tests, Whittle said no changes had been made.

This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest.

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Sally Evans
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