Company in textbooks scandal takes tablet contract for schools

2015-07-26 16:02
Apple iPad. (Picture provided)

Apple iPad. (Picture provided)

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Johannesburg - EduSolutions, the company that failed to deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo, is now supplying tablet computers, laptops and e-textbooks worth R200m to schools in Gauteng.

On Monday, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi handed out 61 000 tablets to matric pupils in Soweto.

EduSolutions, which is still supplying textbooks and learning materials to schools in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, was embroiled in controversy when its contract with the Limpopo education department was suspended after the textbook scandal of 2012.

Hundreds of thousands of children had to go to school without textbooks because EduSolutions had not delivered.

The company’s new contract in Gauteng includes:

. Tablet computers worth R88m;

. Laptops worth R16m for use by teachers;

. R65m for microcomputer servers;

. Digital multimedia content worth R20m; and

. E-textbooks worth R10m.

The order in EduSolutions’ current contract stipulates that the first 375 schools in Gauteng have to be “paperless” by October 31, but experts are sceptical.

“There were serious allegations against EduSolutions. It is therefore completely improper that government is still doing business with them,” said Mark Heywood, director of Section 27, the organisation that took the Limpopo provincial education department to court to force it to deliver the outstanding textbooks.

But EduSolutions insisted it can do the job.

“Our record speaks for itself,” said Singatha Nobongoza, business manager of African Access Holdings, the holding company of EduSolutions, about the criticism.

“We have been supplying textbooks and learning materials to Gauteng schools without problems for the past 12 years,” she said.

Phumla Sekhonyane, spokesperson for the Gauteng education department, agreed.

But a senior official at one of the large school textbook publishers said there had been glitches already. She said EduSolutions had asked publishers two months ago to provide their textbooks in PDF format.

The publishing houses could not satisfy their request partly due to problems with copyright.

EduSolutions then worked around the clock to legally upload the textbooks on the first 61 000 tablets.

Tshepo Motsepe, co-head of the pressure group, Equal Education, said government was on the right track with the tablets.

“Children in poor schools also deserve the benefits of technology,” he said.

The KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape education departments are already using the technology in some classrooms.

Lesufi wants all classrooms in Gauteng online by 2017. The project will cost R17bn, said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in January.

The Gauteng department said teachers had six weeks of training in the use of the technology. Michelle Lissoos, head of Apple’s educational arm Think Ahead, believes at least three months’ training is necessary.

EduSolutions’ contract to supply the technology is part of its existing obligation to supply textbooks and learning materials, said a spokesperson for the Gauteng education department. The contract was awarded in 2012 based on EduSolutions’ competitive quotation and its facilities for the acquisition, storing and distribution of materials. 
Read more on:    edusolutions  |  johannesburg  |  polokwane  |  textbook saga

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