Limpopo heading for another textbook crisis

2014-12-14 06:00

Limpopo’s department of education needs more than R100 million to get all the textbooks it needs to avert a crisis in 2015.

Two senior provincial government officials have told City Press that only half the books needed for 2015’s pupils had actually been bought.

This is despite a recent statement from Limpopo’s government, which said textbook delivery to schools was well under way.

Sources in the department and a set of documents City Press has seen show that just 2 262 530 textbooks of the 4 315 793 ordered by Limpopo’s schools for the academic year have arrived.

Documents compiled by the education department indicate that more than R111 million is needed to address the shortfall.

“It cannot be true that everything is going well with textbook delivery when there are only half the books needed in storage being delivered,” a senior official in the department said.

The official said the textbook prices had suddenly soared because a discount negotiated two years ago with publishers ended abruptly.

“They have been buying books for R10 each directly from publishers for the past two years and now suddenly that deal is off and for 2015 each book goes for around R200 while the Post Office is also charging R4.50 per book for delivery.

“The big question is what happened to the sweet discount deal and how have these publishers been making their profit with such low prices?”

As is often the case in Limpopo these days, fingers are being pointed at administrators sent in by National Treasury in 2011 to repair the province’s wretched finances.

Mzwandile Matthews is the section 100 administrator at the helm of the education department.

Sentle Fanyane, the chairperson of Limpopo’s portfolio committee for education, said the committee was hoping Matthews would appear before it in January to answer “hard questions”.

The department has received three successive disclaimers from the Auditor-General.

“We want all senior officials and the administrator to respond to questions on how they find it satisfying that they get one disclaimer after the other and they behave like it is business as usual,” Fanyane said.

“We’ll ask hard questions around school feeding schemes and if indeed reports that textbooks are not [available] are true in January then we’re going to have a serious problem.”

In response to specific questions about textbooks, the national department of basic education’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, said a lot of work had been done to support Limpopo’s department since the administration started in 2011.

“An analysis is being conducted to establish, in substantive terms, the amount of work done thus far to put in place management systems that have since enabled the department to function better than it did before the intervention in 2011,” Mhlanga said in an email to City Press.

“The Limpopo education department has since made significant improvements from where it was and the details of these will be made public soon.”

Matome Raphasha, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union’s Limpopo secretary, said: “A lot has happened and Mzwandile [Matthews] must go because he has failed this province.

“The department has collapsed under the administrator’s watch and now the backlog from textbooks to infrastructure to [unpaid] travel claims is so huge it is hard to imagine how it’s going to be addressed,” Raphasha said.

Matthews’ boss Monde Tom, the head of the administration in the province, did not respond to requests for comment.

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