Textbooks: Principals are to blame, says department

2014-04-23 12:24

The department of basic education has accused principals in Limpopo of dereliction of duty for failing to report textbook shortages and retrieve them from pupils at the end of the academic year.

The department is embroiled in a court battle with Basic Education For All and Section27 over the nondelivery of textbooks to 39 schools in Limpopo.

Earlier this month, City Press reported that about 18 000 textbooks were still outstanding in Limpopo.

Senior counsel for the department, Chris Erasmus, said textbook shortages were caused by principals’ failure to report that deliveries were not complete, or their inability to report shortages at all. In other cases, he said principals failed to retrieve books from pupils at the end of the year.

As for the 39 schools that are complaining about books they were supposed to receive for the current academic year, he said: “We started delivering books in September last year. We told them that before schools close for the holidays they should report all their shortages and they didn’t. We reminded them again in January, they only reported the shortages after January 31.

“If we can’t rely on teachers and principals to carry out the tasks they are meant to do, then we are sorry. If there is dereliction of duty from principals and they don’t report shortages, then we won’t be held liable.”

In some cases, Erasmus said, the department learnt through Better Education For All and Section27 that some schools were still experiencing shortages.

About textbooks, which schools didn’t receive in previous years or which pupils didn’t bring back to school at the end of the year, he said: “Principals were reminded that books should be retrieved in order to save money. There must be a 100% retrieval; a textbook has to last for five years.”

Two circulars were sent to all schools in Limpopo to remind principals of the importance of retrieving books, he said.

The parties have agreed that shortages for the 2014 academic year will be delivered by May 8. Shortages emanating from previous years or resulting from failure to retrieve books will be addressed by June 6.

The applicants want this agreement to be declared an order of court, but the department is opposing this.

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