Motshekga under fire for textbook crisis

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has not fired former education minister Anis Karodia, despite telling the media she had done so, it was reported on Sunday.

Motshekga had blamed Karodia for the department’s failure to deliver textbooks to Limpopo pupils.

However, in a letter sent on May 14, she apparently thanked him for his “sterling work” in the province, City Press reported.

He was scheduled to join the education department’s intervention team in the Eastern Cape, but declined and went back into retirement.

“Motshekga must apologise to me and speak the truth to the public,” Karodia told the newspaper. “She must clear my name and speak the truth.”

Karodia told City Press the province’s previous administrator had underestimated the complexity of the delivery.

The Sunday Times reported that, in an open letter to Motshekga, six civil society organisations said they were “deeply concerned” by the failure to deliver textbooks despite a court order to do so.

The letter was signed by the Legal Resources Centre, Section 27, Equal Education, the Centre for Child Law, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, and the Equal Education Law Centre.

They cited several problems, including the state of school infrastructure in townships and rural areas, the shortage of desks and chairs, the non-delivery of books, and the failure to combat rising sexual violence and corporal punishment.

The magnitude of the problems represented “a catastrophic failure in the public education system”, the newspaper reported.

A City Press editorial asserted that education was in crisis and slammed Motshekga’s description of the state’s failure to deliver textbooks as “a problem, not a crisis”.

“The minister is wrong. We have a crisis,” according to the editorial.

“No amount of nonchalance or evasion by the education department can change the fact that when children have to rely on courts to get textbooks it means we have deep-seated problems in our education system.”

Motshekga denied blame on Friday, saying she would not quit.

“I have not considered resigning,” she told reporters in Polokwane.

“The best I can do is sort out what I started.
I won’t jump ship.”

A number of factors contributed to the delay, including cash flow and administrative problems, she said at a televised press briefing, maintaining her innocence.

“I trust my officials. I had no reason to doubt them. I won’t put my head on the block ... and leave my children motherless.

Textbooks dumped

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance said on Saturday that Motshekga must explain how textbooks came to be dumped for disposal at a site in Seshego, near Polokwane.

“The Democratic Alliance in Limpopo inspected the site ... yesterday where a contractor is claiming that they are being paid by government to destroy the books,” DA spokesperson on education Desiree van der Walt said in a statement.

Motshekga needed to immediately explain the contractor’s claims, she said.

“It is unthinkable that books which are still of value to children with no access to reading material could be disposed of in this careless way.”

“What kind of a person or regime sanctions the destruction of books?”

The shortages of reading material in schools across Limpopo made the destruction of the books “unacceptable”, Van der Walt said.

Earlier, Congress of the People (Cope) MP Tshilidzi Ravhuanzwo said the party was made aware about a week ago that the “piles and piles” of books were being dumped.

Books and stationery, some still in their original packaging, were being burnt and shredded.

“So many schools don’t have books, and [even old books] could have been used in libraries,” she said.

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