The severely damaged lives and futures of huge numbers of South Africa's schoolchildren.
But, as we report this week, when children are willing to pay the price of being hundreds of kilometres from their families and friends so that they can write their matric exams in safety, and when other schoolchildren are grateful for mealiemiel sacks or bricks without which they would have to sit on bare concrete classroom floors, no amount of official fog can conceal the extent of education meltdown these two realities suggest.
Yet, in a third Mail & Guardian report this week, senior EduSolutions director Moosa Ntimba maintains with a straight face that he has simply no idea who might be to blame for another facet of this meltdown – the Limpopo textbook debacle.
But he is equally sure basic education director general Bobby Soobrayan was being "economical with the truth" when he gave the M&G his version of that scandal last week.
Soobrayan, for his part, admitted no culpability whatsoever – the culprits are patently EduSolutions and the Limpopo government, he said in the interview.
Noting these two examples of the self-proclaimed blamelessness of any adult in rendering the lives of thousands of children very difficult indeed, we should add a third.
Displaying her near-infallible gift for blank obtuseness, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga maintained only a few days ago that neither "crisis" nor "scandal" were words she would use in terms of the textbook saga.
What words would she use? "Normality"? "Government at its finest"? She did not say, but the buck-passing among just these three major figures underlines two key points.
One is how much youthful suffering is eclipsed by the smoke and mirrors our leading adults keep conjuring with. The second is how much the country owes civil society for its courageous, ongoing battles to ensure children receive the education rights too many powerful adults appear to have abandoned.