SOUTH Africa’s matric class of 2014 will not struggle with a shortage of textbooks‚ says the Department of Basic Education.
This follows allegations made last week based on leaked departmental documentation that claimed‚ among other things‚ that the government had allocated only half of the funding needed for the 2013-14 year to supply pupils with textbooks.
Departmental spokesman Panyaza Lefusi said this was only because the department has been forced to readjust its budget following 2012’s Mangaung elective conference of the African National Congress (ANC).
"Because the decision to give every student a textbook was taken at the Mangaung conference of the ANC in December last year‚ which was already in the middle of a financial year‚ we have requested a budget readjustment to accommodate this change in policy‚” he said.
According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper‚ the departmental report claimed there was R3.3bn available for textbooks‚ which left a shortfall amount of R2.9bn in two areas:
the supply of textbooks in Grades 1-6 and Grade 10‚ where the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) had been implemented; and
the full provisioning of textbooks in the grades where CAPS will be implemented in 2014: 7‚ 8‚ 9 and 12.
But Mr Lefusi said the introduction of CAPS had not affected the delivery of textbooks.
"CAPS has had a positive impact. There have been no major challenges yet as we have dealt with CAPS for the past four years‚” he said.
In 2012‚ the department was taken to court by the NGO Section27 for noncompliance on previous court orders regarding the delivery of textbooks to schools in Limpopo.
In his judgment on the continued failure by the department to deliver textbooks across that province and its failure to put in place an effective catch-up plan‚ high court Judge Jody Kollapen ruled that any failure by the national department or the provincial education departments to ensure the complete and timeous delivery of textbooks to schools was a violation of the right to basic education.
Nikki Stein‚ an attorney at Section27‚ said there were other issues besides budgetary constraints that affected textbook delivery in the country.
"The Department of Basic Education has inaccurate statistics and that has an enormous impact on textbook delivery‚” she said. "The department can’t deliver anything without the correct statistics‚ let alone one textbook for each learner in each subject.”
In its submission to the South African Human Rights Commission on its interim report on the state of delivery of primary learning to schools countrywide‚ Section27 called for an independent body to monitor textbook delivery‚ particularly in those provinces where problems with procurement and delivery systems had emerged.
Ms Stein said communication between schools and the department also had to be improved.
"There needs to be a proper mapping of all the schools in South Africa‚ and we need to find a more efficient way for schools and the department to talk. It’s time and resource intensive but it will be worth it‚” she said.
"School delivery for next year’s textbooks should be starting now but we are still fighting for this year’s books to be delivered. It’s difficult to say whether we will be taking the department to court if they are hiding a textbook crisis‚ but we will monitor the situation and take steps where necessary to protect the learners.” © BDlive 2013