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Schools claim no textbooks received all year

In the past two weeks, five schools have said they have not received a single Caps textbook this year, let alone the textbooks for next year, according to the rights organisation, Basic Education for All (Befa).

“It will be a disaster for those schools for next year. Those five are not even part of the schools that were represented in our court case [this year]. They are different schools,” Befa member Tebogo Sephakgamela told the Mail & Guardian on Monday.

He was commenting on statements made in a report by the auditor general, which said the Limpopo education department had failed to acquire half the textbooks needed for 2015.

The figure was in a South African Press Association (Sapa) story that quoted the Synopsis on the AG’s Limpopo Department of Education Management Report.

“From what I see on the ground, I can tell you that story is true. That story doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s an auditor general’s report. There is no way he was lying, given the fact that some of the schools haven’t even received textbooks for this year,” Sephakgamela said.

Worrying trend
The phasing in of the new Caps curriculum began in 2012 and was completed this year. All the department needed to deliver now were “top-ups”, the Limpopo department of education spokesperson, Paena Galane, told the M&G.

However, Sephakgamela said he received a call from a teacher this week who said he fought with his principal over textbooks.

“He said: ‘How can I submit assessments while you haven’t given me the textbooks’ and then there was a big fight with the principal who was saying: ‘I have asked the department and they haven’t delivered.’ I told them just keep sending the requisition forms to the department. The principal said he had submitted the forms more than three times.”

The court action Sephakgamela referred to is part of a ongoing court battle brought by Befa and a public interest law centre, Section27, in response to the Limpopo textbooks crisis in 2012.

Despite three court orders that same year forcing the province and the education department to ensure all Limpopo pupils were provided with all the textbooks they needed, the two organisations returned to court in April this year saying at least 39 Limpopo schools still had not received all their textbooks.

The judge for the case, Neil Tuchten, ruled that the delay in delivering textbooks to pupils was a violation of pupils’ rights.

Back and forth in court
The national education department then applied in June for leave to appeal the ruling. It argued that ensuring every single pupil had every single textbook amounted to a level of “perfection” that “is not the standard required from [government]”.

Section27 described this as a “regrettable course of action” in their answering affidavit.

On November 11 the high court in Pretoria granted the department leave to appeal the judgment and granted Section27 and Befa leave to cross-appeal.

More books to more pupils
Galane was confident that the department’s December 12 deadline for textbook delivery to schools this year for the next academic year would be met.

“We visited the warehouse today with the MEC and the executive management of the department to see the status with regard to distribution of textbooks to schools. Our agreed target is that by December 12 all schools will have received all their books [that they] ordered from us.”

He said some schools struggled to retrieve textbooks from their pupils at the end of the year so schools had to order more books. Galane told Sapa that the migration of pupils to other cities meant that pupil numbers increased at some schools, which then required bigger orders for the next year.

“Schools have books already, and we are working on an 80% retrieval rate,” he told the M&G.

Questioned about schools saying they did not get all their Caps textbooks this year, he said: “We had road shows where we asked all the district and circuit managers to come forward [about textbook shortages]. There have been schools that said they have not received books. When we checked with the post office for the [delivery] slips we see the principal didn’t sign for the books but the head of department [at the school] signed.”

Galane said no schools had reported receiving no textbooks at all to the department.

Undeniable issues
Nikki Stein, an attorney at Section27, said while textbook retrieval and the migration of pupils were factors to be taken into account, “the fact that not all textbooks were delivered to schools in 2012, 2013 and 2014 affects the number of textbooks to be delivered to schools in 2015 to ensure universal provision”.

“What is important is that procurement and delivery take place according to the actual shortages reported by schools, and that any additional shortages reported at the start of the 2015 academic year are responded to promptly.”

Sephakgamela said he regretted that Tuchten had not ruled that the province conduct an audit of all schools and their textbook needs.

“When we will fix this problem is when the department does a thorough, thorough, thorough audit and it says: Yes, we checked every school and school A received this many books and school B received this many books and so on.”

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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