Big stick comes out in textbook saga

2017-01-29 06:01
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Cape Town - An axe is hovering over senior government officials who failed to ensure textbooks and stationery were delivered to schools in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape in time for the start of the academic year.

Both Limpopo MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe and Eastern Cape MEC Mandla Makupula preside over provinces which again failed to ensure every pupil had a book when schools reopened.

The recurring problem in Limpopo has Premier Stan Mathabatha again promising action against officials who didn’t order textbooks on time.

The Congress of SA Students blamed Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle for not holding Makupula accountable after the province’s dismal matric results performance.

Labour federation Cosatu in Limpopo vowed to “shut down” the province this week if Mathabatha failed to apologise for the non-delivery of textbooks and stationery, among other things. The provincial government has since apologised and promised to take action.

Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said: “The premier does not want to start suspending or charging people now; that will disrupt the delivery of stationery. Consequence management will follow. We are not going to mention names now but those who will be found to have fallen asleep on duty will be woken up in a painful manner that they will never forget for decades.”

“Our attitude is that we will never again have this problem in the province,” Seloba said.

“Every year there’s January and schools reopen. It’s a painful thing to find schools without books. Whoever sabotaged the province or forgot to do their jobs will be dealt with.”

Five companies

The provincial government expected all schools to have books and stationery by Friday. Mathabatha is scheduled to visit schools on Monday to see whether the stationery was delivered because he “cannot rely on reports from the same people who failed to deliver”.

Seloba added that now stationery had to be ordered by July every year.

Limpopo education spokesperson Naledzani Rasila admitted the department was to blame.

“When the previous contract for stationery expired in 2016, the department intended to participate in the contract arranged by National Treasury in preparation for the academic year 2017. However, due to some delays ... the department had come with a contingency measure in October 2016 and commenced with the arrangement of a provincial contract.”

The contract, worth more than R400 million, was awarded to African Papers Products but only in December. Rasila said the bid could not be awarded to more than one supplier because it would have cost an extra R150m.

African Paper Products director Vishal Seebran said: “Orders came later. We could only start deliveries to schools when they reopened on January 12. We delivered to nearly 4 000 schools in under three weeks. A feat never done before in the country.”

African Paper Products was among five companies contracted by the Eastern Cape education department.

Seebran said the company delivered stationery in the Libode, Maluti and Lusikisiki districts, but had not yet received any “top-up orders”.

Crisis in education

The Eastern Cape chose again to go it alone this year and not to be part of Treasury’s centralised process.

Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said there were procurement delays last year resulting in deliveries starting only in the second week of January.

“The department has increased capacity in warehouses to ensure that sorting and packing happens more quickly than usual.”

Mtima said the department has been delivering top-up supplies of textbooks to schools which could not retrieve books from pupils and where enrolment increased.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial task team leader Sindisile Zamisa said they wrote to alliance partners and the provincial education portfolio committee asking for a meeting to discuss the “crisis in education”: non-delivery of textbooks, stationery, furniture and the shortage of teachers. A date is still to be set.

Zamisa said the union met ANC provincial leaders including chairperson Phumulo Masualle.

“The ANC must say to Makupula he must take responsibility,” he said.

Masualle’s spokesperson, Nonala Ndlovu, said the provincial executive spent three days visiting schools during the first week of the school.

“All members compiled reports ... which are currently being consolidated. The comprehensive report will highlight all the problems as well success areas and the extent thereof. Subsequent to the report the executive will then devise a plan to deal with the challenges. It would thus be premature to give a perspective before this process is finalised,” Ndlovu said.

Human Rights Commission spokesperson Gail Smith said they were monitoring provinces.

Read more on:    cape town  |  education

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