School book fiasco

2009-12-11 00:00

PRETORIA — The Basic Education Department has decided to stop the hastily advertised tender for the development of workbooks for grades 1 to 6 and start over from the beginning.

About 12 million packages should have reached schools by February as part of the recently announced plans to revise the OBE curriculum.

The books are also part of the government’s focus on the improvement of literacy and numeracy skills, in which South Africa is ranked poorest in the world.

The Democratic Alliance has described the department’s decision as a scandal that needs to be explained.

The tender was advertised in the Government Gazette on November 13 and closed a fortnight later.

Now, according to a statement from the department, it “has become clear that the primary goal of distributing quality material to schools … would not be reached if the department were to continue with the tender”.

Minister Angie Motshekga decided that a new process should be followed with a “realistic time frame” in order to ensure that each child from grade 0 to grade 6 can receive a workbook.

Motshekga is satisfied with the quality of the grade 0 material and ordered it distributed in time for the beginning of the school year.

Spokesman Granville Whittle said 25 institutions submitted tenders, but none was “outstanding”.

Ezra Ramasetlha, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation, said the delay will definitely have a negative impact on preparation and teaching.

Sarah Gravett, dean of education at the University of Johannesburg, feels it is better to ensure that the quality is up to standard, rather than rushing the process.

An informed source said that, given the short time the tender was advertised, one could speculate that the department had an institution in mind to do the work, which turned out not to meet the criteria.

“However, it’s encouraging to see that the minister didn’t hesitate to halt the process. After all, R524 million will be spent on these packages…”

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