On 30 April 2013 the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) published an interim report of its investigation into the delivery of learner teacher support materials (LTSM), including textbooks and workbooks, across South Africa. A copy of this interim report is available here.
SECTION27 made its submission to the SAHRC (Submission to SAHRC re textbooks final 14052013) on 14 May 2013. We highlighted the following issues in our submission:
• The SAHRC investigation relied primarily on the submissions made by the National Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the nine provincial education departments. Without the full participation in the proceedings by other stakeholders, these submissions could not be tested in a way that would allow the SAHRC to establish the true state of affairs with regard to LTSM delivery.
• A pre-requisite to complete delivery of LTSM – and other components of basic education – is accurate information about every school in each province, and what their needs are. This issue requires urgent attention, particularly in the Limpopo Department of Education.
• It is important that an independent entity monitor LTSM delivery in those provinces that have not complied with their obligations in relation to LTSM delivery, at least until adequate systems are put in place in these provinces to ensure complete LTSM delivery going forward. We believe that the SAHRC is in an ideal position to fulfill this function.
• There are numerous obstacles to reporting shortages in LTSM, including poor communication infrastructure in schools and intimidation by officials in both the national and provincial education departments of teachers and principals who report textbooks shortages. These issues must be addressed to ensure complete LTSM delivery going forward.
• The SAHRC failed to take into account the allegations of corruption against EduSolutions, the company appointed by the provincial education departments in Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal to manage the procurement and delivery of textbooks.
• The SAHRC does not appear to have taken account of the findings and recommendations made by Prof Mary Metcalfe, who was appointed by SECTION27 and the DBE to conduct an independent verification on the state of textbook delivery in July 2012. These recommendations extended beyond the 2012 Limpopo textbooks crisis to improving the underlying systems of textbook procurement and delivery. They were accepted by the DBE. We believe that the SAHRC should have built on these recommendations, and inquired from the DBE whether they intend to implement these recommendations.
• The SAHRC also does not appear to have taken account of the findings and recommendations of the Presidential Task Team appointed to investigate the 2012 Limpopo textbooks crisis. These are key to addressing the shortfalls in LTSM procurement and delivery systems.
• We believe that the unique needs of blind and partially sighted learners, including the need for Braille textbooks and workbooks, should form the subject of a separate investigation by the SAHRC.
The final report will be submitted to Parliament on 21 June 2013.
On the issue of textbook delivery to Limpopo schools, we confirm that some schools are still awaiting full delivery of their textbooks. The DBE is aware of these shortages. We are engaging with the DBE to ensure that these shortages are addressed as soon as possible. We encourage schools to continue to report textbooks shortages to SECTION27 and to the DBE as soon as possible so that all outstanding textbooks may be delivered.