THOUSANDS of primary school pupils in Nelson Mandela Bay, and more across the Eastern Cape, have not received vital workbooks for literacy and numeracy lessons, while others have received them in the wrong language.
Frantic teachers have been forced to "borrow” workbooks from other schools and photocopy them at their own cost.
The latest education crisis follows the release of a new study that shows the Eastern Cape has the country’s highest rate of no confidence in the education system.
A survey by TNS South Africa shows that only 51% of adults in the Eastern Cape are happy with the education system in their area.
People in Port Elizabeth are the least happy in the country with only 43%, while those in Bloemfontein (73%) are the most satisfied with the education system.
While 64% of adults in the country feel the education system is good, only 54% are happy with the system in their area.
The survey is yet another vote of no confidence in the province’s dysfunctional Education Department which has battled with numerous troubles, from too many vacant posts at schools, to the non-payment of teachers for months, and the most recent non-delivery of workbooks to primary schools.
The department was placed under administration in March last year but this has not improved the situation for most of the teachers and schools in the province.
Education Department district director Dr Nyathi Ntsiko confirmed yesterday that 10% of the 170 schools in the district had been affected by the delivery of insufficient consignments of workbooks.
The workbooks are exercise manuals which are formulated by the Basic Education Department with assignments that pupils answer directly into the book.
"All schools have received workbooks. The problem arose when some schools did not receive the full consignment of workbooks. We communicated with the national department regarding the shortages and they have delivered those books to the district office.
"We are currently phoning principals to make arrangements to fetch the books that they still require. We expect all the workbooks to be delivered [by tomorrow],” he said.
Ntsiko said pupil numbers fluctuated and this resulted in the inaccurate number of workbooks being delivered. He could not explain how Xhosa language books were delivered to English schools and vice versa.
"Schools that experience any problems should contact us directly. We can only try to solve the problem if it is reported to us.”
However, DA spokesman Edmund van Vuuren said the situation had become chaotic and likened the workbook shortage to the Limpopo textbook debacle.
He said there were 25370 literacy workbooks and 15500 numeracy workbooks outstanding by Friday last week according to the department’s database for the Port Elizabeth district.
Van Vuuren said the state of education was worsening instead of improving since the department was placed under administration.
"Some schools might not even receive their workbooks before the end of the year. There is no guarantee that these books will be used again next year because assignments are changed on an annual basis. This means that these non-delivered workbooks is wasted expenditure,” he added.
The DA released a statement saying Education MEC Mandla Makupula had been summoned to the Bhisho legislature to account for the workbook shortages.
Makupula, however, said yesterday he had been invited to attend a meeting by the portfolio committee tomorrow to discuss cases of litigation in the department and not the workbook issue.
He said the delivery of workbooks was the responsibility of the national department.
Govan Mbeki Township’s Cebelihle Primary School principal Sipho Matyolo said the school had not only received insufficient workbooks but had also received them in the wrong language.
"We are an English medium school but we have received books in isiXhosa. I am not one who likes to complain but it is so disappointing to have to teach with such limited resources,” Matyolo said.
"I called the district office and the national office but everyone seems to be passing the buck. The national department says the provincial department is to blame while the provincial department is blaming the district office.”
Education specialist Professor Susan van Rensburg said the national department needed to send a task team to the province to investigate why the incorrect and insufficient books were delivered, much like the team sent to investigate the Limpopo debacle.
"We need to have a similar exercise here. Someone needs to do an investigation as to why the department is incapable of delivering the right books at the right time.
"If teachers do not have the proper resources then it reflects in pupils’ results at the end of the year. There is a correlation between bad service delivery and bad results. We have to ask the question why do senior managers in the province know what the problems are but still don’t do anything to fix it? Are they unwilling or not capable?”
Meanwhile, another court battle is looming between Eastern Cape acting education boss Mthunywa Ngonzo and school governing bodies over the department’s plan to withdraw procurement functions from more than 3000 poor schools.
The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) has written to the department threatening to take legal action against Ngonzo’s plan.
Fedsas chief executive Paul Colditz said: "We will definitely consider legal action. The whole Limpopo saga is illustrative of what happens when such functions are taken over by provincial departments.”
This comes after Ngonzo announced plans to withdraw purchasing of textbooks, stationery, desks and other educational materials from section 21 schools in quintile one, two and three – considered to be poor schools in the province. They get funds directly from the department and are responsible for buying their own educational materials.
Colditz said the circular sent to schools announcing Ngonzo’s plan was "not sustainable in law”.
Eastern Cape Education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said Fedsas was within its rights to go to court. "But there is no malice intended by the acting SG. He made his assessment before announcing the plan and now he is on an information-sharing exercise with schools to clarify this matter.”
Additional reporting by Msindisi Fengu