/ 5 April 2013

‘Inadequate’ education data prompts commission probe

‘inadequate’ Education Data Prompts Commission Probe

Unreliable data from provincial education departments about the ­supply of learning materials, including textbooks, to the country’s schools prompted the South African Human Rights Commission to haul departmental heads to Johannesburg for an inquiry, the commission told the Mail & Guardian.

“The information we got [when we made queries during the Limpopo saga last year] was inconsistent and inadequate,” said Lindiwe Khumalo, the commission’s chief operations officer.

“Some provinces would not answer all our questions or they would give us incorrect information about the number of learners they have. This information did not allow the commission to formulate a clear picture about the supply of textbooks and stationery across the country,” Khumalo said.

The commission called Bobby Soobrayan, the director general of the basic education department, and all nine provincial education ministers to an “investigative hearing” that started on Tuesday. Khumalo said it aimed to ascertain whether delivery problems were isolated to Limpopo.

Because the hearings are closed to the public, Khumalo declined to comment on whether the hearings had ­indicated that the supply problem extended beyond Limpopo. The commission will release a report within two months.

But the M&G reported last year that delivery of schoolbooks was uneven across the country (“Damning report fails Motshekga”, July 13). The basic education department’s draft national school monitoring survey found that only 38% of grade sixes had access to a language workbooks and 50% of Free State grade six pupils had maths textbooks, for instance.

Nikki Stein, an attorney at Section27, the litigation group that forced the basic education department to deliver textbooks in Limpopo last year, said the province presented an extreme, but not isolated, case. “There have been shortages across the country for many years.”

However, some have criticised the commission for not making the hearings public. “All education stakeholders should have been there,” said Nomusa Cembi, the spokesperson of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union. “You can’t trust the government to give concrete information about delivery.”

Doron Isaacs, the deputy secretary general of Equal Education, said: “We support the initiative by the commission, but we’re disappointed the hearing was held behind closed doors.”