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Limpopo pupils may finally feel the grain and smell the scent of fresh textbooks between their Grade 10 hands.
In a statement yesterday, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) confirmed that 99 percent of Grade 10 pupils had received their books. But social justice group Section 27 are sceptical of the claims.
“We have not had time to study this report in detail. However, we fear that some of these reports may not be accurate,” said Section 27 spokesman Mark Heywood.
“For example, on June 26 we spoke to one school, which is recorded by the DBE as having received 99.7 percent of its textbooks. The principal confirmed that no books have been delivered.”
The ongoing textbook saga ultimately saw Section 27 and two other applicants, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, launch an urgent application against the Limpopo Department of Education over its failure to procure and deliver textbooks for pupils throughout Limpopo.
On May 17, Judge Jody Kollapen held that the failure by the DBE and the Limpopo Department of Education to provide textbooks to pupils throughout the province was a violation of the right to a basic education, dignity and equality.
He ordered the DBE to deliver textbooks to all schools in Limpopo by no later than June 15 and that a “catch-up plan” must be formulated.
Yet the entire ordeal has been epitomised by missed deadlines. By June 20, no textbooks had been delivered.
“This has been a sad saga with an unknown cost to learners,” said Heywood.
He said they believe there is serious corruption regarding books.
“We are authoritatively told that the DBE budgets and spends R4.7 billion for books annually, but that publishers’ revenue is less than R2 billion.”
DBE spokesman Panyaza Lesufi acknowledged that even they doubted the accuracy of the 99 percent reports.
“We are concerned about reports that books may not have reached all schools and want to encourage everyone with information in this regard to report shortages of textbooks so that this can be investigated and corrected where necessary,” he said.
Lesufi added that “an independent verification of the progress reports relating to delivery of textbooks to schools is essential, both in assessing the state of delivery of the current textbooks, and in ensuring that the crisis is averted in years to come”.
Sapa reports that the DBE said it had started putting a catch-up plan in place, which included extra tuition for children and “content knowledge support” for teachers.
It had also approached the Nelson Mandela Foundation to convene an education summit between Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, NGOs and education sector-based organisations to go through issues related to quality education.
The department’s director-general, Bobby Soobrayan, said he was disappointed to learn that some principals had refused to go and receive the textbook consignments at their schools this week.
“Some of the principals went to the extent of switching off their cellphones, others were very rude to the distributors, and some principals… did not want to be disturbed as they were on holiday.”
Soobrayan thanked those who co-operated.
“We cannot allow an independent person’s lack of consideration to affect our learners,” he added.
A circular was issued to principals to notify pupils to collect their textbooks, but it was not known if they were told.
Soobrayan said the textbook saga was “highly regrettable”.