It is unacceptable and beyond reason that 2 367 schools out of 5 615 public ordinary schools have been failed by the Eastern Cape Department of Education in not providing 800 000 learners with the necessary resources in order to access quality education.
This non-delivery of stationery resulting from alleged irregularities during the tendering process is causing irreparable harm to the future of our children.
At the Pine Grove farm school in the Dordrecht district, for instance, 25 disadvantaged learners have had no schooling for the entire first term of 2011.
Currently the department is embroiled in a court case which is holding up the issuing to stationery to schools.
The tender for the stationery was issued in August 2010. In this process seven companies were recommended. The amount allocated for this stationery tender was R43 million for manufacturing and R11 million for distribution. On 17 December 2010, the award was given by the Internal bid Award Committee.
This tender was however blocked by the Superintendent-General, Adv. Modidima Mannya, on the grounds that only one company out of the seven approved had a tax clearance certificate. Two of these companies, Freedom Stationery (PTY) Ltd and Afropulse 46 (Pty) Ltd, have however challenged the department in court for cancelling the tenders without warning after being awarded.
While all this infighting is going on our learners have been deprived of their constitutional right of being provided with much needed stationery.
This is a record-breaking delay, resulting in a big stationary shortage within the Eastern Cape. It is the first time in the history of the Eastern Cape where learners have been without stationery for a period of four months.
As of Friday, 15 April 2011, no order had been placed, be it with the original service providers or substitutes, or other state organizations or even bookshops.
The DA has reliably learned that the department has lost its case in court and that an order issued based on what was decided by the Internal Bid Award Committee.
The DA was also reliably informed that the 14-day window period of the court order during which stationery orders was supposed to be placed with the service providers has lapsed.
As stated already, the negative effect that the lack of stationery will have on the majority of learners that cannot provide for themselves is unreasonable and should be condemned in the strongest sense possible. These under privileged learners, with no resources of their own, are unable to enter any of the work done in their classrooms in a workbook. This will result in them not capturing what was done over the last four months.
By denying learners stationery this department is denying our learners the right to an education. This will also further demoralize our already struggling learners, causing some of them to leave school permanently.
The DA firmly believes that the Eastern Cape Department of Education can stop failing these children if it goes back to basics. Orders should be placed by the department with the approved service providers by the latest in August before the next academic year so that delivery can take place in time. This will mean that each child has a book on day one of the new school year.
This department should note that a lot of harm has already been caused in that thousands of learners at these 2 367 school have been marginalised and discriminated against. The DA does not foresee — whether orders are placed now or not — that delivery will take place in what is already the second term. It normally takes a number of weeks for manufacturing and distribution from the date of orders being placed.
It is another sad day in the history of the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape. Shame on them.
Edmund van Vuuren, MPL