Call to ditch centralised textbook system: Daily Dispatch

THOUSANDS of Eastern Cape pupils were still without textbooks at the end of January – and even now, as the second term starts, there are some whose books are outstanding.

Members of the provincial portfolio committee on education made the revelation yesterday after visits to the 23 education districts in the Eastern Cape.

Lady Frere was found to be worst affected in the province.

Not one of its 175 public schools had received textbooks by the end of January.

Ideally, schools should have all their books and study materials by

the the beginning of the school year.

Among the schools visited by the committee earlier this year were Sakhikamva High School in East London, Holomisa Senior Secondary School in Mthatha, Nonzondelelo High School in Port Elizabeth, Sakhululeka SSS in Fort Beaufort and KwaKomani Comprehensive School in Komani.

The committee has given Education MEC Mandla Makupula 30 days to resolve the problem.

The committee tabled the shocking report to the Bhisho legislature on Tuesday, and called for education authorities to abandon the central procurement of textbooks and learner-teacher support material (LTSM) by the headquarters in Zwelitsha, which was introduced in 2012.

Sakhikamva principal Lucky Macozoma confirmed yesterday that not all textbooks had arrived. “Some have been delivered but we are still waiting [for the rest],” he said.

Education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gadi said the centralisation policy of buying books in bulk was “economically sound”, but “grossly unscientific”.

“We have a crisis while buying in bulk. There is evidence that schools are receiving books that they never ordered.

“The policy has serious administrative challenges. This has been happening for [almost] five years.”

Gadi said the problems with delivery of textbooks affected teaching.

“It is best we go back to decentralisation, especially now that we are rationalising districts from 23 to 12. This means we need to rationalise functions like payments and procuring to districts.”

He said he expected Makupula to give a detailed report to the committee on plans to resolve the textbook and LTSM debacle within 30 days.

Gadi said the department needed to come up with a suitable model.

DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said textbooks were still not delivered at schools in the majority of districts visited.

“Almost every district didn’t order textbooks following school orders.

“Those schools which have 100% deliveries sometimes receive what is not the material they ordered.

“We also don’t know how much was saved by the department through centralising procurement of books.”

Van Vuuren said some of the schools were coerced by department authorities to be part of the central procurement system even though they were in the section 21 category.

Section 21 schools have their subsidies paid directly into their accounts by the department.

UDM MPL Thando Mpulu said some of the textbooks were of inferior quality. “We have asked the MEC to investigate whether someone is benefiting from the central procurement programme. He has committed to that.” —