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The Basic Education Department was emphatic on Wednesday that all textbooks would have been delivered to Limpopo schools by midnight, the latest deadline given to the authorities.
But teachers and principals in several schools late on Wednesday, particularly in Limpopo’s five districts, were equally certain there was no way the department would meet the deadline.
The department made its assertion despite the fact that piles of textbooks still lay undelivered at a warehouse in Polokwane on Wednesday afternoon.
Bobby Soobrayan, director-general for the Basic Education Department, said the majority of textbooks that were still at the warehouse were “top-up” textbooks for pupils in all the various grades.
“Because of the (Limpopo Education Department) budget problems, they have not been supplying enough books for all the learners in the province,” said Soobrayan.
Initially, only grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 were affected by the non-delivery of textbooks.
This prompted Section 27, a Joburg NGO, to take Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to court last month.
But the department missed the June 15 deadline set by the court. A new deadline was set for on Wednesday.
“As of on Wednesday (Tuesday), we were at 100 percent delivery for grades 1 to 3, and 97 percent for Grade 10.
“At the end of today we would have delivered 100 percent – that’s meeting the target,” said Soobrayan.
Initially, the department had been transporting books from a warehouse in Polokwane to district warehouses before they were transferred to schools.
This raised concerns that this would further delay their delivery to schools.
But on Wednesday Soobrayan said this had changed.
“Especially from (last) Friday to now, what happens is that these boxes are being transported directly to the schools,” he said.
The province’s education department has been run by officials from the national government since it was placed under administration for poor governance in December.
However, Soobrayan distanced himself from the current problems.
“The director-general of the Basic Education Department doesn’t run a province at all. I have no legal authority over the province; the minister is the executing authority.”
Soobrayan indicated that the province had misled the minister into believing that by last Wednesday a larger percentage of textbooks had been delivered already.
“Clearly there has been a management problem, yet in the reports we were getting at the Basic Education Department and ministry level, we were not informed of these problems,” he said.
Simultaneously, teachers and principals in Limpopo have expressed despair at the
non-delivery of textbooks.
The teachers and principals The Star spoke to at several schools late on Wednesday did not want their names made public for fear of repercussions.
“I won’t be surprised if the schools reopen without the textbooks being delivered. Even the guys delivering the books have indicated that they won’t cope because the workload is staggering,” said a principal of a high school outside Modjadjiskloof in the Mopani district.
Some of the textbooks that had not been delivered included maths, accounting and history textbooks for Grade 10; and reading and numeracy books for the foundation phase, where the new curriculum was phased in this year.
A teacher at a school near Giyani, also in the Mopani district, said: “Even if we had to improvise, it’s not easy because the teachers are not familiar with the new curriculum. Plus the textbooks go hand in hand with workbooks (in terms of) the new curriculum.”
A principal in the Sekhukhune district said the situation had paralysed schools. “Principals say they have problems motivating teachers, who use the shortage of books as an excuse for not teaching,” he said.