Education department falls short on textbook deadline

"A report on the progress … indicated that 99% of textbooks had been delivered to grade 10 learners and that all textbooks have been delivered to grades 1, 2 and 3," spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi told reporters in Johannesburg.

Claims that some schools were still waiting for books was a concern to the department and civil rights body Section 27, which took the department to court over the non-delivery.

"We want to encourage anyone with information … to report shortages of textbooks, so that this can be investigated and corrected where necessary," Lesufi said.

Both parties were also concerned that information in the progress report could be inaccurate.

"The parties have agreed to appoint an independent [person with] competent capacity to do an audit and evaluation of deliveries," Lesufi said.

"An independent verification of the progress reports … is essential, both in assessing the state of delivery … and in ensuring that the crisis is averted in years to come."

Section 27 had requested the verification process.

Missing deadline
"We request that a person/organisation be appointed within two days and that his/her report on the delivery of the books be made available by Friday July 6," said the organisation's executive director, Mark Heywood.

"This has been a sad saga with an unknown cost to learners."

The department said it had started putting in place a catch-up plan, which included extra tuition for children and "content knowledge support" for teachers.

It had also approached the Nelson Mandela Foundation to convene an education summit between the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, non-government organisations and education sector-based organisations to go through issues related to quality education.

The department's director general Bobby Soobrayan said he was disappointed to learn that some school principals refused to go and receive the textbook consignments at their schools this week.

"Some of the principals went to the extent of switching off their cellphones, others were very rude to the distributors and some principals … did not want to be disturbed, as they were on holiday."

He thanked those who co-operated.

'Lack of consideration'
"We cannot allow an independent person's lack of consideration to affect our learners," said Soobrayan.

A circular was issued to principals to notify pupils to collect their textbooks but it was unknown if they were told. Pupils are currently on their winter school holiday.

Soobrayan said the textbook saga was "highly regrettable". Children had suffered and more needed to be done to fix the situation and avoid a repeat of it in future, he told reporters.

He explained that the procurement and delivery of textbooks to schools was meant to take up about 10 to 12 months. The books should have been ordered in August last year, not in April, he said.

The delay was attributed to the cancellation of a contract between the Limpopo education department and a service provider responsible for the procurement and delivery of learning material to schools.

In May, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered the department to provide Limpopo schools with textbooks by June 15, saying its failure to deliver violated the Constitution. Section 27 met the department after the first deadline expired, and it was agreed it would be moved to June 27.

On Thursday morning, the South African Principals' Association said not all schools in Limpopo had received textbooks.

"Even if one school didn't receive textbooks it is one too many," the association's deputy president, Ngoako Rapaledi, said. – Sapa

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