Hundreds of Port Elizabeth pupils have been forced to beg, borrow or steal textbooks and stationery as their schools have still not received their full annual allocations.
Although they are already in the final month of the first school term, at least 24 of the northern areas’ 56 schools and more than half of the township schools have yet to receive their full quotas.
National Association of School Governing Bodies Nelson Mandela Bay chairman Mpumi Odolo was unable to provide exact figures for township schools in the Bay, but confirmed that more than half had not received their quota of textbooks and stationery.
This, despite an assurance at the beginning of the school year by provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima that the textbooks had all been delivered.
Education MEC Mandla Makupula also said at the time that the northern areas would be one of the department’s priorities this year.
Yesterday, provincial education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gade accused senior education officials of presenting false reports in January on the state of readiness of schools for the 2017 academic year.
In Port Elizabeth’s northern areas, the worst-affected schools include Strelitzia Primary – which has only received 12% of its textbook and stationery quota, Astra Primary (29%), West End Primary (30%), Bethelsdorp Road Primary (40%) and Papenkuil Primary (48%).
The figures came to light following visits to the schools in the northern areas and townships last month by the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF).
The visits had highlighted the ongoing neglect of northern areas and township schools, NAEF secretary Richard Draai said.
Following last year’s crippling northern areas education protests, the schools and parents had decided to instead take the legal route in future, Draai said.
“Last week, I visited schools in the northern areas and the townships and we are of one mind that we will now be fighting the negligence of the department legally.
“When the education portfolio committee was here [in January], all of them, including the MEC, spoke of how they had delivered 100% of textbooks,” he said.
“The MEC then visited the first school, Astra Primary, where the principal told him they had not received a single book.
“Every year, there is huge fanfare when it comes to matric results. How can we place focus on matrics when we can’t even deliver a textbook at the foundation phase?”
Odolo said the delivery of textbooks and stationery was an annual problem, despite the Department of Education again receiving the biggest chunk of the provincial budget pie – R32.9-billion for the 2016-17 financial year.
“The situation is worse than it’s ever been,” he said.
“The lack of stationery is forcing governing bodies to ask parents to buy their children’s stationery with money they don’t have.
“Classes can’t take place at some township schools because they don’t have workbooks or textbooks.”
Gade said the delivery of textbooks and stationery was an issue across the province.
“We have just finished consolidating a report which will be presented in Bhisho in due course.
“I stand by my statement that the readiness reports were falsified,” Gade said.
Education specialist Professor Susan van Rensburg said it was pointless for a child to attend school without a textbook.
“Some of these schools haven’t received books in years and [the pupils] are essentially a lost primary school generation that subsequently becomes a lost secondary schooling generation,” she said. “The legal route is the best option for the affected schools as they have clearly exhausted all other avenues.”
West End Primary principal Ronnie Matthys said last week: “We have heard all these promises before.
“We have done everything the department requires of us as educators, yet nothing has changed or will ever change.”
His views were shared by a number of other principals.
Until a week ago, Rufane Donkin Primary had only received 13% of its textbooks.
Principal Heather Theron said the school had to borrow textbooks from other schools in the area and make photocopies of them for the children to share.
“We received some textbooks last week, which brought the quota up to 50%,” she said.
“However, it is not nearly enough material to deliver a quality education to our pupils.
“You have four or five pupils huddled around one textbook.
“And they can’t get homework because they have to leave the textbook photocopies for the next class to use.
“This has been going on for years.”
Parkside Primary principal Penny Barry said the school had received 66% of its textbooks, but was yet to receive so much as a pencil from the stationery quota.
“The children are forced to share stationery, so some have to wait to use a pencil to jot down work,” Barry said.
“This has resulted in a lot of stealing of stationery in class.”
A Grade 8 teacher at Kwazakhele High School, who asked not to be named, said just over half of the school’s allocation had been delivered.
“It is the same problem every year,” he said. “Our pupils lose out on at least three months of school every year.
“As a result, they are overwhelmed at year-end when the whole curriculum is crammed because of this initial delay.”
At Papenkuil Primary, where no stationery has been delivered and only 48% of textbooks have been received, a teacher, who also did not want to named, said: “The department should take lessons from SAB in terms of deliveries – there is never a shebeen in the country without beer.”
The northern areas is also still facing a dire teacher shortage.
Draai said each of the 56 schools in the area was short of one or more teaching or administrative staff member. He estimated that at least 100 teachers were needed to make up the backlog.
On Friday, Mtima promised to respond by the close of day to questions sent to him, but failed to do so.
Repeated attempts to contact him later were also unsuccessful.