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The Department of Basic Education is being taken to the Grahamstown High Court on Thursday over the failure to fill teacher vacancies in the Eastern Cape.
The case comes hot on the heels of the Limpopo textbook debacle.
Section 27, the non-government organisation that played a central role in bringing the Limpopo crisis to a head, is a friend of the court in the legal challenge, being brought by the Legal Resources Centre and the Centre for Child Law, over the failure of the Eastern Cape and national education departments to finalise the teacher complement so all vacancies in the province can be filled.
This failure, it is argued, contravenes the right of children to education.
The Eastern Cape education department was placed under administration last March after it ran out of money and sacked about 3 000 temporary teachers. It also ended scholar transport and school nutrition programmes.
Meanwhile, in Limpopo, which had its bankrupt education department placed under national administration alongside four others last December, efforts to get to the bottom of the textbook fiasco appear mired in political power plays and attempts to shift the blame for pupils left without books.
While officials insisted textbooks had been delivered, principals indicated they had not, and getting answers from the department was difficult.
“Not all schools received textbooks. Some received some textbooks. The story is still the same,” said Ngoako Rapaledi, president of the Limpopo SA Principals’ Association.
“We don’t need scapegoats. We need learners to pass.”
No Grade 10 mathematics and science textbooks had been ordered, the audit task team under education specialist Professor Mary Metcalfe discovered on Thursday – even though Tuesday’s briefing by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to President Jacob Zuma painted a different picture.
“With regard to Grade 10, all learners received a textbook on mathematics and science on time,” the Presidency said afterwards.
Yesterday DA education spokeswoman Annette Lovemore said the audit team had been told no Grade 10 maths and science textbooks were ordered after the Shuttleworth Foundation delivered books. But, according to the departmental line, she added that these should never be regarded as anything more than supplementary to the official books.
The sudden establishment of a provincial task team after a special provincial cabinet meeting has also raised eyebrows.
However, provincial government spokesman Tebatso Mabitsela dismissed concerns, adding the administration wanted to take “proactive steps” and improve service delivery.
As three task teams, including one appointed by President Jacob Zuma, probe the Limpopo textbook crisis, the spotlight is on the politically connected company EduSolutions, which had the R680 million contract to supply textbooks and other learning materials.
The Mail & Guardian reported yesterday that Shaun Battlemann, head of EduSolutions’ parent company, African Access, has close ties to Zuma: He accompanied the president to the US last year and also provided R300 000 for a house for the family of one of Zuma’s close friends, the late Shadrack Maphumulo.
Battlemann denied to the M&G that his connections had favoured EduSolutions.
There have been several calls, including from labour federation Cosatu, for Motshekga to explain her relationship with EduSolutions, which reportedly dates back to 2008 when she was Gauteng Education MEC.
Lovemore said yesterday she would ask parliamentary questions of Motshekga. While it could not be categorically said there was a corrupt relationship, Lovemore said there were suspicions: “We believe this needs to be investigated.”
Aside from Limpopo and Gauteng, the company also supplies KwaZulu-Natal, where delays have been blamed on principals missing the deadline for submitting orders.
Meanwhile, the DA in the Western Cape has denied claims by the ANC that it had not supplied textbooks to schools after the opposition ANC delivered textbooks to four schools in Kraaifontein.
Motshekga received support from an unexpected quarter – DA leader Helen Zille.
“Firing the minister would treat a superficial symptom, but leave the root causes unaddressed. In truth, without Minister Motshekga things would probably go from bad to worse,” Zille said.