Written by Nthambeleni Gabara
The Department of Education has welcomed the report compiled by Professor Mary Metcalf into the delivery of textbooks to Limpopo schools. It says that the report adequately captures the complexities of the Section 100 (1)(b) intervention in that province and the difficulties experience by national government in terms of the provision of textbooks to schools in Limpopo.
Metcalfe had been tasked to verify the state of delivery of textbooks to Grade 1 – 3 and Grade 10 learners in Limpopo.
Some of the summary findings of the report are that the provincial government of Limpopo was unable to order books last year for this academic year because the province had already overspent its budget.
In December last year, Cabinet placed the provincial Department of Education under Section 100 in terms of the Constitution. Orders for the textbooks, according to the report, began to be placed with publishers in the first week of June 2012.
The first court deadline for delivery of textbooks was June 15, but this was later extended to June 27 and the schools closed on June 22.
However, the first books only started to arrive in the central warehouse from 7 June and more than a million books arrived over a two-week period, more have arrived since and more are expected.
It would ordinarily take an estimated six weeks to process these books into school-based delivery lots, generate the necessary paperwork to track delivery, transport them from the central warehouse to the district warehouses then to the respective schools.
According to the report, if it was the intention to deliver the material in a two-week time frame then a more comprehensive plan was required with greater resources, capacity and infrastructure than what was made available.
“The pressure to squeeze this complex process into a two-week process caused weak systems to buckle and a full audit of delivery could not be completed because large numbers of proof of delivery notes had not been returned,” says the report.
It added that because there was no money in the Limpopo budget for textbooks, the orders had been rationalised and reduced.
“When books started arriving many schools could not understand why they had not received what they had ordered,” says the 80-page report, adding that Limpopo schools have poor communication infrastructure and communication with schools regarding the distribution of textbooks has also been lacking.
Metcalfe’s report said they were unable to make an accurate assessment of how many books had reached schools as yet and they were concerned about the number of schools that report that they do not have the correct books in quantity, language or with categories missing.
Spokesperson for the national department Panyaza Lesufi on Monday welcomed the comprehensive report.
“The department has noted the recommendations and findings of this report and will carefully consider these to ensure that the processes of procurement and distribution of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) in Limpopo is strengthened.
“We are aware of that non-availability of school personnel during the school holidays made it very difficult for the team to accurately verify and audit deliveries at school level,” he said.
Lesufi, who apologised to Limpopo learners and their parents for the delay in the delivery of textbooks, said the department was committed to continuing with this process of verification.
“We sincerely apologise to the learners and their parents for the situation which they are finding themselves in. As the department we’ve rolled up our sleeves to resolve this problem. The minister will also be visiting the province to engage relevant stakeholders about this comprehensive report,” he said.
The provincial department has already initiated the procurement process to ensure that textbooks for the 2013 school year are available when schools re-open in January.
President Jacob Zuma has also appointed a task team to look into the causes of the delays in delivering textbooks to Limpopo schools. Lesufi said the department was waiting for the reports of the task teams established by both President Zuma and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale.
The five-member team will map out remedial action and make recommendations.
Lesufi further thanked Metcalfe and her team for their dedication to “this very important task”.
Orignally published by the South African Government News Agency