No textbooks for EC learners, despite court order

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

Hundreds of thousands of learners across the Eastern Cape are still without textbooks, despite a court order compelling the provincial Department of Education to make sure that the books are delivered by the end of March.

The court order stated that ECDOE had to “ensure that every learner at every public school in the Eastern Cape is provided with a full complement of stationery and textbooks for the 2022 school year as soon as possible, and by no later than 31 March 2022”.

Not even a court of law seems able to get the Education Department to fulfil its primary mandate of providing learners with their fundamental human right to access education.

As of 16 March, 4 932 schools were still awaiting delivery, and it was clear from the Department’s response that the books would not be delivered within the timeframe. On Wednesday, 30th of March, I joined an NCOP delegation visiting Mncwathi Senior Secondary School and Lundini Primary School in the Alfred Nzo East District. Both of these schools have still not received any deliveries of textbooks.

What is even more concerning is that the failed deliveries are only for the top-up books ordered by schools. The last full complement of textbooks was ordered in 2016. These textbooks have a five year lifespan, which means we are already overdue in replacing all the books.

To fully replace all textbooks would cost the Department an estimated R2,5 billion. This has not been budgeted for in the current or upcoming financial years. This effectively means that the court order will not be complied with for the foreseeable future.

With the drastic budget cuts enforced on schools, the top-up orders that have not been fulfilled would still not place a textbook for every subject into the hands of every learner.

In response to a parliamentary question, Education MEC, Fundile Gade, revealed that the number of textbooks in schools, per grade, as a percentage of the number required for every learner to have one per subject, the situation in the foundation, senior and FET phases is dire:

We are only at:

  • • 60% in grade 2;
  • • 65% in grade 3;
  • • 38% in grade 8;
  • • 62% in grade 9;
  • • 33% in grade 10;
  • • 47% in grade 11; and
  • • 57% in grade 12.

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Learners across the board have been deprived of critical learning material for an entire term. Add this to the two years of disruptions already experienced due to Covid-19, and the impact on our schooling is devastating!

This is the same Department that paid out hundreds of millions of rands to Covid-19 tenderpreneurs, making hairdressers and estate agents covid-19 millionaires, but no money was kept aside to provide our children with textbooks?

MEC Gade has failed to hold anyone accountable, despite this monumental failure.

The law must now take its course. Those responsible for failing to deliver the textbooks within the court-mandated time must be held personally liable.