The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has agreed to a DA request to investigate the Eastern Cape Department of Education for allegedly failing to deliver top-up textbooks to schools.
DA basic education spokeswoman Nomsa Marchesi said the party had written to the commission on February 21 to request an investigation into the department, after a presentation to the portfolio committee on basic education revealed that 42% of top-up textbooks had not been delivered.
“The SAHRC’s decision to investigate this matter … is a clear indication that the Eastern Cape’s education department has breached the human rights of vulnerable young South Africans,” she said.
Provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani blamed the huge shortfall on pupils failing to return textbooks at the end of each year.
“Those that operate in the education sector will be aware that textbooks have a five-year life span and therefore it is not necessary to deliver textbooks annually,” he said.
“However, due to the changing dynamics of schools year on year as a result of migration, repetition or lack of adequate retrieval of textbooks by schools, the department does annually top up textbook supplies.”
Pulumani said that this year the department faced a large number of requests for top-up orders.
He said an assessment last year had revealed there was a huge shortfall and the Treasury was approached for an additional budget to address this “serious anomaly”.
“The first batch of the top-up orders for 3 759 [schools] amounting to R530.8-million was placed on November 7 2016 and to date 60% of that order has been delivered to schools.
“A second order was placed on December 15 2016 to benefit 1 345 schools amounting to R289.6-million. To date delivery of that order is at 22%,” Pulumani said.
Marchesi said many of the affected schools, especially those in the townships, had experienced a backlog in textbooks and other educational resources for many years.
“It is unacceptable that young South Africans, who are desperate for a quality education, are subjected to such gross negligence by the government.
“The SAHRC investigation will play an important role in holding the department accountable for their failures,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Public Service Commission’s Singata Mafanya told the standing committee on public accounts at the Eastern Cape legislature yesterday that they had received, through the National Anti-Corruption Hotline, 40 cases involving the department in the period between July 2015 and last week. Of these only nine were finalised. Mafanya said the department did not take the issue of corruption seriously as there were no signs of attempts to establish a unit to investigate corruption within. – Additional reporting by Zingisa Mvumvu