War of words between DA and Mpumalanga education dept over lack of school textbooks

Empty classroom. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Empty classroom. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

A war of words has erupted between the DA in Mpumalanga and the province's education department about the supply of new texts books for pupils in 2020.

Jane Sithole, leader of the DA in Mpumalanga, said they had discovered, during a meeting of the finance portfolio committee, that the Department of Education would not be using any of the R320m it had budgeted in the current financial year for the purchase of books, due to lack of funding.

The department's budget was cut by R1.1bn and they will only have R21.8bn to run the department in the 2019/20 financial year.

Sithole said, in the report that was presented to the portfolio committee, the department also indicated the they had to spend R1.7m of the current budget to pay accrued costs for textbooks which had been bought in the previous year.

Department spokesperson Jasper Zwane denied the allegation, saying that they would spend R120m for the purchase of textbooks in the current financial year.

According to Sithole, it was discovered during an earlier oversight visit, by the legislature's Portfolio Committee on Education to numerous schools in the province, that there was a serious shortage of text books.

Thembeka High in KaNyamazane and Mashishini Secondary in Mashishini (formerly Lydenburg) were two of the schools visited.

"It is mainly learners in Grade 8 to 12 who have been without textbooks, or had to make plans to share textbooks for more than a year," says Sithole.

The department also indicated in their report before the portfolio committee that they would not spend any funds on purchasing books, in order to save money.

Zwane said his department had spent R360m in 2017/18 to purchase textbooks.

He, however, admitted that the department battled to get the textbooks back from learners at the end of each year.

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