What if the Limpopo textbook saga had been in Western Cape?

Why did the ANC toyi-toyi for The Spear but failed to toyi-toyi against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s textbooks saga in Limpopo?  And does it really make sense that people (mostly ANC members and its aligned members) could toyi-toyi against a portrait but failing to do the same when their (or maybe not their) children’s basic and constitutional right of the “right to education” was infringed upon and violated by both Motshekga and the entire ANC leadership especially considering she was a teacher herself?

City Press Online reported yesterday (27 June) that ANC policy head Jeff Radebe addressed journos during the ANC press conference that the textbook scandal in Limpopo was a “shame” and a “bad thing”. Radebe said it was a “bad thing” that halfway through the year the pupils still had not received text books. And “to add insult to injury textbooks have been burned. I do not understand which textbook [can be banned and which textbooks] cannot be used. So it is a matter of shame that that has happened”, Radebe is heard saying on SA FM seven o’clock evening bulletin on 27 June.

Be that as it may – but no ANC or its aligned members did toyi-toyi to show their dissatisfaction on this saga. Never. Not SACP, not Cosatu, not ANCYL, not ANCWL, not YCL. None of them. Why? Why did they have the strength to toyi-toyi against The Spear – a portrait by artist Brett Murray depicting President Jacob Zuma with his ‘zombo’ outside his pants?

ANC members and its aligned members – Cosatu et al – argued at the time that Zuma’s right to privacy, especially his right to dignity, had been tempered with, and that their demonstration was to show support for the president.

Granted. Of course I supported their demonstration at the time and believed that indeed Zuma’s dignity had been violated by the portrait itself (okay, let’s not go into that debate).

But a few months down the line following their solitary and support on the constitutional violation of Zuma’s right to dignity, and halfway through the year that some students had not received their school textbooks to date — the ANC alliance partners and especially ANC leadership has failed to show the same solidarity by toyi-toying Motshekga for this despicable incompetence. And not only has she failed as an education leader (when one takes into account that she’s the minister of education for kak’s sake), but that the Limpopo provincial education department too has failed it students.

What makes matters worse is that despite a court order last month [May 2012] to deliver the books, Motshekga has still failed to deliver the books. Last week she sought an extension with the non-governmental organisation, Section 27,  that had taken her department to court over its failure to hour its constitutional obligation of ensuring that pupils in Limpopo (and in South Africa in general) have their “right to education” achieved.

At the time she was supposed to have delivered the books but requested an extension to yesterday, mid-night, which was then agreed. But yesterday afternoon indications from the province were that the department was very unlikely to meet its mid-night deadline.

SABC’s SA FM reported yesterday afternoon that some schools in the province indicated that they still had not received the text books as promised and undertaken by the minister last week. The public broadcaster further reported that the school principal association had confirmed, too, that many schools had not received the ordered text books promised by the minister and as had been ordered to deliver them by the court order in May this year.

During an interview with SA FM Motshekga said that reports from her provincial officials were that only 23% of schools had not received their text books which she said were still being delivered to different schools. Told by SA FM‘s Tshepiso Makwetla that it had been confirmed by teachers and Principals in the province that some of the ordered text books had not been delivered, that wrong books had been delivered – Motshekga admitted that books had not been delivered as had been ordered but that the department decided to only order one prescribed book for the entire province per grade, adding that schools could not use different books for the same grade.

This, unfortunately, had resulted in another court battle by the nine members of the African Publishers Association who have lodged papers in the Pretoria High Court to stop the department from distributing textbooks in Limpopo, according to The Times newspaper today (28 June). The newspaper said publishers wanted to interdict the department from selecting textbooks not chosen by the schools, claiming they had lost more than R20-million in printing costs.

Nkhebeleni Phaswana, the association’s secretary, told The Times that catalogues with various textbooks had been sent to schools by publishers for teachers to select those they wanted – as usual – but the department wanted to find its own books – something Motshekga admitted on SA FM interview yesterday (27 June).

Phaswana asked who is going to pay for the books that had already been printed and used for marketing as had been ordered by different schools. She said “We do not want compensation, but we want the department to buy books that teachers have selected”. “We have the material – they are there. All other provinces have ordered normally. So, as publishers, we are saying now we are in debt because of the government.”

Phaswana told The Times newspaper that some of the association’s members had used their homes as surety. And as a result they “stand to lose our houses and this is something we cannot let go without a challenge.”

Association spokesman Sakie Shabangu said “the administrator [which is the education department] intended to order some textbooks without the schools selecting them as agreed”. “When we objected”, said Shabangu, “the administrator withdrew the orders and claimed he needed further consultation with the department.”

Asked by SA FM’s Makwetla yesterday whether she had met the deadline, Motshekga responded by saying this was a difficult question to answer because the deadline was actually mid-night of 27 June. This, in my view, meant that the minister could only give the correct report on whether she had met the deadline today which, too, seems very unlikely to have been met, according to a Mail & Guardian Online report earlier today.

M&G Online reported that South African Principals’ Association confirmed that not all schools in Limpopo had received textbooks by Thursday, despite the education department’s claim that it had met its deadline. The association’s deputy President Ngoako Rapaledi question the department’s claims that it would have meet yesterday’s deadline, saying.

“What do they [education department] mean they met their deadline? Even if one school didn’t receive textbooks it is one too many. They can’t say that they met their deadline. I am on my way to a school where they have to still deliver textbooks. Rapaledi said: “That same truck has more deliveries to do for this morning. What deadline?

Hope Mokgatle, the department’s spokesman, who claimed as at 5pm yesterday (27 June) that 98% of the schools had received their books, also concurred with Motshekga that the department did not rely on teachers to select or recommend textbooks to be ordered. This, he said, was because the department has its own “subject advisers and academics who write textbooks and the department prescribes the books.”

But today, Mokgatle was all defensive, telling M&G Online today that “If people say we have not met our deadlines, they must bring evidence. There might be a few schools that have not received their books because there was no one at the yard, but the books are there.”

What is surprising is that Motshekga was speaking from the ANC’s Policy conference in Gauteng instead of being on the ground in some rural village in Limpopoand making sure herself that indeed the schools were getting their books as promised she had promised. But no, she did not. She saw fit to attend the ANC policy Conference instead. Bloody politicians!

For all it’s worth, I hope that whatever expectations were there for the Limpopo province’s Matric (and lower grades’) pass rate for 2012 has been cancelled, if not brought down dramatically, especially following his textbook-gate saga.

Or as a friend of mine brilliantly put it on his Facebook yesterday: “If this Text Book saga was in the Western Cape, how many matches could have taken place? I really wonder!”

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