Officials in the Eastern Cape are in hot water for “lying” to Parliament about the delivery of textbooks and furniture to more than 5000 schools this year.
In a damning report seen by City Press, the provincial legislature demanded an apology from education authorities for stating earlier this year that support materials, which include textbooks and furniture like desks and chalkboards, were delivered to various schools this year.
City Press understands that at the centre of debacle is acting head of provincial education department Sizakele Netshilaphala, who is facing the heat for presenting the report to the portfolio committee on education, stating that there was “100%” delivery of support materials in schools.
Committee chairperson Fundile Gade confirmed that the legislature wanted an apology and those responsible to be disciplined.
“The department must come back and clarify themselves for two reasons because, besides the report that talks to 100% support materials they indicated, the damage of that lie is huge in terms of the provincial government because the state of the province address made by the premier [Phumulo Masualle] also [refers to] 100% as well. Consequence management [disciplinary action] must prevail.”
Gade said Eastern Cape education MEC Mandla Makupula had indicated his disappointment over the inaccurate report made by officials. However, Makupula could not be reached for a comment.
“He has come to me expressing that disappointment and conceded. The issue is why did they not qualify that report. The argument they brought back to the committee during some interactions at times related to issues like [the delivery of] support materials to some schools … they also delivered to schools support materials that were not procured,” said Gade.
“You cannot operate like that as government in fact that is gross violation of policies of government. How do you give somebody something that they never procured?”
Gade said many schools had to do without textbooks, including matriculants who were sitting for final exams.
“This is a very serious matter and when we meet them in our first meeting it will be about this issue,” he said.
The committee is expected to sit on Wednesday.
Masualle’s spokesperson Nandi Sikutshwa had not responded to questions at the time of writing.
Last month, at a media briefing about the state of readiness for matric exams this year, Masualle had included provisions of support materials in a seven-point plan aimed at improving the standard of education in the next three years. This, he said, would finally get the matric pass rate to reach the elusive 70% target.
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said: “We decline to comment due to the sensitivity of matter and that this is being dealt with internally through the proper channels.”
…non-provision of support materials had reached a critical point and resulted in high failure rates in the second term…
The report found that “non-provision of support materials had reached a critical point and resulted in high failure rates in the second term” especially in the Buffalo City Metro, which was made up of East London and King Williams Town education districts.
The legislative committee stated in the report that the department “must table an apology to the legislature for undermining the integrity of an institution charged with maintaining oversight of the provincial executive in terms of the Constitution and the standing rules of the legislature”.
It also stated that a report on the “true state of affairs with regard to the support material delivery for the current financial year” be submitted.
Schools without support materials cited in the report included:
» Iqonce High, where pupils had to share textbooks. “The sharing of textbooks compromises the learners’ ability to do their homework,” the report stated;
» Sinethemba High has shortage of textbooks after officials failed to deliver on a promise that textbooks from other closed schools will be channelled to it. “The department must ensure that the school is provided with textbooks as a matter of agency in order to curb the issue of learners not being able to study on their own,” the report said;
» Cumming Memorial School, which has not received furniture since 2007. These were 60 desks and chairs. “Learners have to share and others have to stand while teaching is taking place,” the report noted;
» Lumko Senior Secondary, which has a huge shortage for support materials across grades.
“This situation is hampering the performance of the school. The school ended up using the old furniture, running the risk of damaging the floors of the new classrooms,” the report stated;
» Parkside Primary, which has a shortage of furniture resulting in overcrowded classrooms.
“The situation is not conducive for teaching and learning,” the report said.
Msindisi Fengu is a Senior Journalist at Daily Dispatch.
This article appeared in The City Press on 29 November 2016