SECTION27's textbook litigation unnecessary - DBE

Dept says civil society organisation wasted valuable time and resources

Response to the order of the North Gauteng High Court delivered on 4 October 2012 on the matter between Section27 et al and the Minister of Basic Education et al

5 Oct 2012

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) wishes to state that the decision by Section27 to litigate on the perceived non-delivery of Grade 10 textbooks, which were reported as shortages by school in Limpopo, was unnecessary and a waste of valuable time and resources.

Section27 had hoped that the North Gauteng High Court would grant an order against the department and the Limpopo Department of Education for failing to comply with the two previous court orders, directing that:

  • the delivery of Grade 10 textbooks for 2012 be completed by no later than 31 October 2012; to the procurement and delivery of textbooks for Limpopo schools for 2013 to be completed by no later than 9 January 2013
  • the DBE report monthly on its progress in complying with this deadline; and
  • there should be an independent verification process to be undertaken of the 2012 delivery process.

In fact, the Court did not attribute fault to the department for the incomplete nature of the delivery of books to Limpopo. The Court indeed accepted that it was not the fault of the department.

While there has been considerable coverage in the media regarding the so-called failure of the department to meet the delivery targets, there has been little or no effort on the part of the media or indeed by Section27 to acknowledge the enormous nature of the task. In fact, it is important that the media should inform the public of the steps taken by the department to procure textbooks not only from within South Africa, but also from beyond our borders. The facts are:

  • 92% of Grade 10 textbooks (equivalent to 1,027,585 textbooks) were procured and delivered to schools in Limpopo around June/July 2012;
  • the remaining 8% of Grade 10 textbooks (equivalent to 89,350 textbooks) constitute the shortages that were reported by schools around August 2012; and
  • the reported shortages were due to circumstances beyond the control of the department - a fact recognized and accepted by the North Gauteng High Court. These textbooks were either in short supply or not printed at all by the publishers.

The department in fact, conceded to the Court that there was a minimal percentage of Grade 10 textbooks still to be delivered to schools; and that the DBE would complete the outstanding deliveries by 12 October 2012. Indeed, the department had undertaken without being compelled to do so, to provide to the Court with an affidavit by 17 October 2012, confirming that the deliveries will be completed. The Court accepted the department's commitment. Thus Section27's application for an independent verification process was denied. This decision will save the department millions of rands that can be better utilized.

In addition, it is important to inform the public that the department's 2013 LTSM procurement process for Limpopo schools is already at an advanced stage. It is expected that all deliveries of curriculum and assessment policy statement (CAPS)-aligned textbooks will have taken place by 15 December 2012 for Grades 4, 5, 6 and 11.

Any suggestion made by Section27 of victory from the Court judgment, is an attempt to mislead the public.Section27's claim of victory is indeed hollow. The department will continue to work towards normalizing and stabilizing the situation in Limpopo, a situation that was thrust upon the department, and indeed will continue to ensure that the processes around the procurement and delivery of learning and teaching support materials (LTSMs), the responsibility of provincial education departments, are strengthened to prevent this unfortunate situation from re-occurring.

We call on all members of society, including Section27 and its allies, to work with the department, rather than against it, in our quest to realize the goal of providing a textbook for every child by 2014. 

For progress regarding the implementation of the section 100 (1)(b) intervention in the Limpopo Department of Education (see here).

See: Catch-up plan (pdf).

Statement issued by the Department of Basic Education, October 5 2012

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter