16 July 2012

South Africa: Limpopo Textbooks Still Outstanding - Report

Photo: UNICEF/Flickr
Studying (file photo).

Johannesburg — A significant amount of textbooks owed to Limpopo pupils by the basic education department have still not been delivered, a report has found.

The report, compiled by former education director general Mary Metcalfe on the late delivery of textbooks in Limpopo, found that the department had only delivered 48 percent of the books by July 3 -- in violation of a court order.

Legal non-governmental organisation Section27 said at the release of the report in Johannesburg on Monday the department had not been completely honest when it said it delivered 98 percent of books by its June 27 deadline.

"On the first day of a new [school] term, there is a risk that many learners still remain without textbooks or with insufficient textbooks," Section27 executive director Mark Heywood said.

"We accept that all... figures [in the report] require further verification. But on these facts the department of basic education remains in violation of the court order. This needs very urgent remedy."

The report found that despite the extended date for the delivery of textbooks by June 27, the department's assertion that 98 percent of the books were delivered was partially incorrect.

"Professor Metcalfe's report shows that on 27th June only 15 percent of books had been delivered to schools. By July 3 this had increased to 48 percent, Heywood said.

"According to the report, by July 11, 22 percent of the sample schools were still awaiting textbooks."

The report found that Section27 believed the department's figures should have reflected the receipt of books by schools. The department maintained that its figure of 98 percent actually represented the number of textbooks dispatched to warehouses for delivery.

"By the time deliveries started to schools they were closed for the school holidays, further compounding delivery difficulties," the report said.

It found that squeezing the delivery into a two-week process "caused weak systems to buckle and [that] a full audit of delivery could not be completed because large numbers of proof of delivery notes had not been returned."

A large number of warehouses in Limpopo belonging to the department also had "volumes" of textbooks from previous years that were not delivered.

Section27 accepted the recommendations made by Metcalfe in the report and called for their "urgent implementation".

"It is very clear from this and other reports that the Limpopo education department is rotten, riven (rife) with corruption, and incapable of meeting its constitutional obligation to learners," Heywood said.

"We call for the department to be cleaned out, for the vigorous prosecution of charges of corruption, for maximum openness about those charged, and for the [Limpopo] MEC for basic education Dickson Masemola to be fired."

He said the "crisis" not was Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's sole responsibility.

"Section27's intention is not to vilify any particular person. However we maintain our position that once Cabinet decided to intervene in Limpopo... they assumed, through the department, full responsibility for meeting minimum standards for the delivery of basic education services within the province."

Basic education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said the department accepted the report and would work to implement its recommendations.

"We await further reports to make an accurate assessment on the matter.

We are going to Limpopo to count each and every learner and teacher to ensure that this situation does not happen again," he said.

"The Limpopo department has already initiated the process to ensure that textbooks for the 2013 school year are available when schools re-open in January."

Section27 took the department to court to force it to deliver the books after some schools in the province had been without them for seven months.

The Metcalfe report was compiled in response to the department's assertion that 98 percent of the books were delivered.

A presidential task team and the Limpopo government are also conducting their own investigations into the situation, which has been accompanied by media reports of textbook dumping, irregular ordering, and tender processes.

Democratic Alliance Limpopo education spokeswoman Desiree van der Walt said 17 schools being monitored still did not have textbooks on Monday morning.

"By the first day of school the department has failed to ensure that books are in the hands of Limpopo school children," she said in a statement.

"Our monitoring today confirms that the Metcalfe report's statistic of 52 percent of schools not receiving books by 3 July still applies today.

We demand concrete answers from the minister on when children will finally receive all the books they need."

Many parents at Luthuli Primary School in Seshego, near Polokwane, withdrew their children from the school on Monday morning after there were no textbooks, school furniture, or teachers.

The school governing body chairman Clifford Mohloana said the children would not return to school until the department intervened.

"We are not going to take our children to school, its useless -- there is no teachers, no books, no classrooms," Mohloana said.

"Even if we... say they must go to school, there are no materials or teachers who will make sure that [the] education of our children continues."

Limpopo education spokesman Pat Kgomo blamed the board for the incident but said the department would engage with them to resolve the problems at the school.

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