Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Limpopo Education Department has once again come under the spotlight for failing to deliver textbooks to schools on time. It emerged this week that several schools in the province are yet to receive textbooks and learner support material. The department blamed the delay on the appointment of a new supplier.

"Much more work still has to be done in the other three districts of the province, namely Sekhukhune, Mopani and Waterberg. The delay in the delivery of stationery is mainly due to the appointment of a new supplier, following the expiry of a three-year contract that supplied stationery to our schools," said Limpopo education department spokesman Naledzani Rasila.

In recent years, the Department of Basic Education has come under fire for failing to deliver learning material on time in Limpopo. In 2012, the department failed to deliver learner materials to pupils, which prompted lobby groups, including Basic Education For All, to approach the courts.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the lobby groups finding that the department had violated pupils’ rights to education through its failure to deliver textbooks.

The department then filed court papers, arguing that the Limpopo textbook delay had not violated pupils’ rights, saying that providing textbooks to every single pupil would amount to a level of "perfection" it did not need to achieve.

However, in 2015 the supreme court of appeal ruled that the department’s failure to provide Limpopo pupils with their textbooks directly infringed on their rights to basic education, equality and dignity and amounted to unfair discrimination. The court also found that the department was in breach of earlier court orders.

On Thursday, DA Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle said, following an oversight visit, that all schools in Sekhukhune, Mopani and Waterberg districts have not received their textbook cache, and in the Capricorn and Vhembe districts only about 50% of the schools received their textbooks and learner teacher support materials.

"The DA is deeply concerned that the Limpopo MEC for Education Ishmael Kgetjepe has yet again distorted the truth and covered up the condemnable failure by his department to deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo for the new academic year. Kgetjepe must urgently make a public statement on this failure and furnish a clear plan to rectify this as a matter of urgency," said Smalle.

He said sources in the department had indicated that a contractor who was meant to provide the material was appointed "very late" and that the fault cannot be laid at the service provider’s door. "The sad truth is that the department continues to lack the capacity and the political will to prioritise learning. This may explain why the matric pass rate has declined 10.4% over the last two years. This isn’t just a figure — these are students who deserve a quality education and the opportunities that it brings," said Smalle.

Limpopo remains one of the worst performing provinces in terms of matric results and recorded a 68.2% pass rate in the 2016 exams.

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