Preliminary findings on the matter of learners without textbooks at Maitland High School

By Minister Debbie Schafer, Western Cape Minister of Education:

A preliminary investigation was launched last week into the matter of learners without textbooks at Maitland High School.

Meanwhile the WCED can confirm that the outstanding textbooks have since been delivered.

At the start of every school year, various schools report textbook shortages due to learner growth, subject changes and/or non-retrieval of textbooks from the previous year. If schools identify shortages due to learner growth, school expansion and/or the addition of a new grade or subject, these books will then be ordered and supplied during the first quarter of the term.

The WCED has an online ordering system for textbook procurement in order to ensure that textbook orders are delivered to schools on time for the start of the school year.

All schools in the Western Cape Province were afforded the opportunity to order their top-up textbooks needs online during the period from 21st July 2014 until 15th August 2014 for use in 2015.

A preliminary investigation, in the case of Maitland High School has revealed that in the July/ August ordering period, orders were placed by the school, and there was a glitch on the WCED online ordering system which resulted in the order not showing up online.

The glitch has since been addressed and the WCED ICT team has rebuilt the online system in time for ordering for the 2016 academic year.

Furthermore, all schools in the Western Cape Province were afforded an opportunity to order additional top up textbooks between 10th and 16th February 2015 to address textbook shortages due, inter alia, to increased learner enrolment figures.

A letter was issued to all schools to invite schools to order additional textbooks against the school’s Norms and Standards for LTSM.

Schools were required to complete a formatted excel template to reflect the school’s requirements.  The due date for the submission of the template was indicated as 16th February 2015 to be e-mailed to the provided address.

Whilst the principal alleges that he did follow up the matter with the Department, no record thereof could be found at Head Office.  However, the principal did not place the top-up order within the 10th-16th February ordering period either, only doing so on 19 February when the system had been closed off.

The order of Maitland High, a Section 21 school, was not received during either text-book top up ordering periods, with the result that an order was not included for Maitland High School in the main order placed.

Section 21 schools manage their own finances. The WCED deposits the school allocation into the schools’ accounts at the beginning of every financial year, after the schools have submitted audited annual financial statements.

An enquiry was received from the Education District Office regarding the delivery of textbooks to Maitland High School on 23rd April 2015, whereupon it was explained to the Education District official that an order had not been placed.

An order was subsequently placed on 8th May 2015 and all textbooks ordered are to be delivered on or before 27th May 2015.

I am not satisfied with the lack of follow up between August last year and early this year, and have asked that this be further investigated and disciplinary action taken against the responsible individual or individuals if necessary.

Nevertheless, it needs to be clarified that it is not all the learners who did not have a text-book, but either those in excess of the numbers expected this year, or as a result of the school not retrieving books from last year.

All schools need to have a textbook retrieval policy to ensure that they retrieve a minimum of 95% of the textbooks back from learners at the end of the school year.  It is simply unsustainable to replace large numbers of textbooks every year.

In this case there were a large number of “top-up” textbooks required, far greater than 5%.  This would appear to indicate that a large number of books were not retrieved from learners last year.

Schools are required to use their Norms and Standards funds to procure these textbooks, as required.  The department invested more than R600 million during the period 2011 to 2013 to support the introduction of the CAPS curriculum.  We were the only province to have done so. The department budgeted a further R30 million last year for this purpose, and an additional R10million for growth.  Publishers delivered more than 8 million textbooks and readers during this period.

Theoretically, schools should thus have all the textbooks they need to cover the CAPS curriculum.  They need to take responsibility to implement adequate systems to retrieve textbooks at the end of each year.

Unfortunately, many learners do not return their textbooks at the end of the year, and schools have to use their norms and standards funding to meet the shortfall, which many schools cannot afford.

People need to understand that there is not an unlimited supply of money to simply replace resources and equipment when people fail to take accountability for them.  We appeal to learners and parents to look after books and to return them every year.

Ultimately, the onus is on the school principal and management team to ensure that textbook are ordered timeously and that disruption to learning and teaching time is kept to a minimum.