/ 20 April 2013

SAHRC to pronounce on textbook scandal

Some pupils in Limpopo will do final exams without in-depth knowledge of their textbooks.
Some pupils in Limpopo will do final exams without in-depth knowledge of their textbooks.

An interim report following hearings into the alleged non-delivery of textbooks was being compiled and would soon be presented to Parliament, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Saturday.

SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena said the commission had concluded preliminary investigations into the matter. "An interim report following this hearing would be compiled by April 30 and presented to Parliament," he said.

The SAHRC hearings into the alleged non-delivery of school textbooks began on April 2, with the Eastern Cape and Limpopo reportedly being the most affected provinces. "The commission invited the presence of the director-general at the department of basic education and all provincial MECs of education from the beginning of the hearing, to present oral and written responses to a listed number of questions around the challenges of delivery of learning material to schools," said Mangena.

The panel had decided to not declare the proceedings closed and to hold further consultations with interested parties who have not presented their submissions yet, he said. "After all submissions have been received, a consolidated report on the state of delivery of learning material to schools in the nine provinces, containing recommendations will be submitted to Parliament for implementation," said Mangena.

All nine provincial education ministers were hauled before the South African Human Rights Commission to answer questions about learning material, the Mail & Guardian reported earlier this month.

Unreliable data from provincial education departments about the ­supply of learning materials, including textbooks, to the country’s schools prompted the interviews.

“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 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.” – Sapa with M&G writer