Learning And Teaching Support Material provision: Department of Basic Education briefing

Basic Education

28 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC) and Ms N Gina (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education presented a report on delivery of learning and teaching support material (LTSM) within each province. The national department compiles a catalogue of LTSM but every province, being in control of their own budgets, employs different ordering, warehousing, delivery and payment methods. By the end of 2013, the new CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) curriculum would have been implemented in all grades, so LTSM costs should decline considerably from 2014. It would be necessary to procure top-ups early in every academic year as accurate numbers of learners were not known until school enrolments were finalised as learners migrate between schools, districts and provinces. A national policy to ensure better retention of textbooks, which should last five years, was being developed. Two court cases (concerning Oxford University Press and Edusolutions) were briefly discussed.

Committee members expressed some scepticism that the full provision of LTSM would be largely achieved by the end of 2013. Other questions and comments included:
• A request for the names of the various distribution agents doing provincial delivery.
• Why top-up orders for 2014 would only be placed at the end of March 2014?
• To what extent was litigation affecting delivery (Limpopo court case about termination of Edusolutions’ contract as it supplied three provinces).
• Was DBE planning to go into textbook publishing itself?
• A request was made for monitoring to be intensified, especially the two provinces which, in the weekly update, had delivered only 38% (Free State) and 53% (KwaZulu-Natal) so far.
• What percentage of learners would probably not have textbooks in 2014?
• Did the DBE profile service providers since using small enterprises previously led to unfulfilled contracts.
• Was it best practice that each province had its own delivery model - could it not be better controlled nationally?
• A request was made for the details of the ICT plan for the blind.
• Which provinces and schools already retained LTSM?
• A request was made for the reports to clearly distinguish between stationery, textbooks and/or workbooks.
• The Department had not listed many challenges and those given had been external to the DBE.

The Chairperson requested that the Committee be updated fortnightly on each province and also asked for the book retrieval policy. The Committee Report on the study tour to Botswana was adopted.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed two delegates from the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Mr Allan Subban, DBE Director: Enhancement of Programmes and Evaluation of School Performance, and Mr Suren Govender, acting Deputy Director General of Curriculum Management. According to a letter from the DBE. She asked all present, including observers, to introduce themselves. The media and Equal Education were present. Ms Malgas left before the presentation began and Ms Gina took over as Chairperson.

Provision of learning and teaching support material (LTSM)
Mr Subban reported on the delivery of textbooks for the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for Grades 7 to 9 and 12; for the CAPS addendum catalogue for Grades 4 to 6 and 11 and for top-ups for Grades 1-6, 10 and 11. (CAPS has already been implemented in the grades receiving top-ups and ordering from the addendum catalogue.) He reported on the provision of workbooks and stationery and on strengthening learning and teaching support material (LTSM) retention. Textbooks were ideally meant to last five years.

All provinces had submitted management plans for the provision of LTSM which were aligned with the DBE’s plan, in time for textbooks and stationery to be delivered to all schools by 31 October 2013. The DBE received monthly reports on procurement and delivery of textbooks and stationery from each province for monitoring purposes. Each province had a different model for procurement and delivery but they all had to customise the nationally compiled catalogues and addendum catalogues.

The Eastern Cape outsourced textbook, workbook and stationery delivery to a publisher who appointed a managing agent for distribution. Textbooks, workbooks and stationery for Grades implementing CAPS were procured centrally regardless of the school’s Section 21 status or quintile ranking.

The Free State outsourced distribution of LTSM to district based distributors but the provincial department provided warehousing. Schools sent their orders to regions; the province consolidated and placed orders with publishers. A service provider had been appointed to supply stationery for three years.

Gauteng had appointed a managing agent to procure and deliver textbooks and stationery and manage and distribute LTSM to schools. Section 21.1c schools (90%) had to provide proof of requisitioning to the provincial office. the managing agent then consolidated the orders and placed it with publishers. The remaining 10% bought through booksellers, who then ordered through publishers and the schools then paid the publishers.

In KwaZulu-Natal an agent managed procurement, warehousing and delivery of textbooks and stationery.

In Limpopo the province procured centrally for all schools, after having invited publishers to submit their lowest price. The province then selected the three cheapest books on the revised catalogue and placed orders, which the publishers delivered to a central warehouse and the Post Office delivered to schools. Publishers invoiced the Department.

Mpumalanga had appointed a managing agent for procurement, warehousing and delivery of textbooks and stationery. Schools sent requisitions for these to a circuit manager for verification and approval. Circuit managers then pass these to the managing agent who places consolidated orders with publishers, who deliver to a central warehouse. The province paid the managing agent, who then paid the publishers.

In the Northern Cape, schools order from the Department which then consolidates and orders from publishers. The Post Office acted as a managing agent for warehousing and distribution. Schools manage their own stationery funds.

North West schools requisition from the regional office which allocates them to distributors and for warehousing. The regions process orders which the province pays for after receiving documentation.

The Western Cape procured textbooks centrally for grades implementing CAPS. Schools received norms and standards allocations to purchase textbooks that fell outside central procurement. The province issued a multiple-source tender for supply of these books directly to schools. Schools completed requisitions and quantities were consolidated by the province. The province placed orders with publishers which delivered directly to schools.

All provinces planned to complete textbook delivery to schools by 31 November, at the latest. They were all on track for delivery by publishers except for KwaZulu-Natal (59%) and the Western Cape which was not evaluated for progress in this respect, as it did not use warehousing. The Eastern Cape had delivered 100% of its textbooks to schools, the North West 99.8%, Gauteng 97%, the Western Cape 92%, Mpumalanga 91%, Northern Cape 76% and Limpopo 60%. KwaZulu-Natal had delivered 42% of its textbook supply and the Free State 20%. These figures changed daily.

Figures for top-ups would only become available at the end of March 2013. Provinces would apply to Treasury to have the 2014/15 allocation shifted to 2013/14 (because CAPS would have been implemented in all grades by then). The Minister of Basic Education had also taken up this matter with the Minister of Finance in order to ensure that every learners had a textbook for every subject in every grade by the end of 2014.

Workbooks (for literacy, life skills and numeracy in 11 languages for lower grades, for mathematics in English and Afrikaans for Grades 4 to 9 and for English First Additional Language Grades 1 to 6 (24m in total) had been delivered to 62% of schools. The DBE was collecting data on stationery delivery and would have complete data by the end of November 2013.

Challenges for DBE were:
• Distribution to schools disrupted by service delivery protests
• Litigation
• Service providers who delivered late or abandoned orders
• Shortage of paper, printing materials and infrastructure
• Packing errors by publishers and suppliers
• Delays in reporting incorrect deliveries and shortages by school principals
In addition to the weekly reports from provincial education departments, various inter-provincial fora met to monitor progress, share best practice and address problems.

The DBE was in process of developing an LTSM retention policy. In the meantime, provinces were required to submit reports on retention and retrieval by 31 January 2014.

Discussion
Mr D Smiles (DA) said it remained to be seen whether the DBE had succeeded in LTSM provision and was not unsceptical about the validity, credibility and reliability of the figures presented. With regard to the different provincial delivery models: as distribution was where the problems lay, was it wise for Limpopo, for instance to use the Post Office and were other distribution agents reliable and have capacity. He would like the names of the various distribution agents.

Mr C Moni (ANC) asked for the purpose of top-up orders only being placed at the end of March 2014.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) had anticipated a broader plan. Would every child really have a textbook for every subject in his her grade by the end of 2014? She had recently visited a secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal where ten learners shared a textbook. Would the DBE sector plan include this level of detail, for instance the number of learners in a class? She wondered what the impact or consequences would be of a Limpopo court case involving Edusolutions’ contract being terminated, as they supplied three provinces. Also, was the DBE planning to go into textbook publishing itself?

An ANC member was pleased about Braille material being supplied, wanted to know why there could not be a standardised delivery model and what measures could or would be taken if provincial education departments did not supply weekly reports.

Ms J Ngubeni-Maluleka (ANC) would like monitoring to be intensified, especially in the two provinces which, in the weekly update, had delivered only 38% (Free State) and 53% (KwaZulu-Natal). Were textbooks translated into the two new languages?

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) wanted to know what percentage of learners would probably not have textbooks in 2014. It was mentioned that the Eastern Cape model utilised small enterprises, which stimulated the local economy, but such entities had previously not fulfilled contracts. Service providers were reported, three months ago, to be dumping LTSM – had there been any further developments and what would the DBE response be if a province used the same service provider? Did the DBE profile service providers? He knew that some Edusolutions staff had previously worked for the DBE.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) had heard before that books would be delivered by year-end. She wondered if each province having its own delivery model was best - if it would be better controlled nationally. She was concerned at Limpopo using cheapness as a criterion.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said there would be some principals who would expect to receive books without having requisitioned them and some who would get the wrong books and ‘run to the media’. The DBE, however, mentioned no such challenges. He asked for details of the ICT plan for the blind. Why were stationery and textbooks not delivered together? To what extent was litigation affecting delivery? What would happen if Treasury did not approve the 2014/15 budget to be used for top ups in 2013/14? Which provinces and schools retained LTSM, he would be interested to know.

The Chairperson commented that the presentation was somewhat confusing regarding Section 21 schools in KwaZulu-Natal: ‘300 of the 2000 schools opted for central procurement’. It was not clear whether these were Section 21 schools or not. In future, she would also like to see whether stationery, textbooks and/or workbooks were being reported on, as it was not always clear.

DBE Responses
Regarding the credibility of the data, Mr Subban said that in Limpopo, for instance, all schools completed a template with the number of learners in a grade, subject and language and it was easy to check this against orders for anomalies. Many grades had already had CAPS implemented and therefore ordered books so the numbers were known. This was monitored against books ordered from publishers and how many were delivered versus proof of delivery.

The Post Office had been effective in the Northern Cape and that was why Limpopo had chose to use it. The Department was monitoring and delivery was going according to plan. Limpopo could only begin delivery after a court case, brought by Oxford University Press against it, had been finalised.

Regarding top ups and the budget, as learners migrated from province to province and school to school, it was not possible to know detailed school, district or provincial enrolments until the end of March every year, at which stage provinces would have used their budgets for the 2013/14 financial year, hence the need for additional funds. It was highly likely that the request to use the 2014/15 allocation would be granted as from 2014/15 the amount needed would be much smaller than previously because CAPS would have been implemented in all grades by then and top ups only would be needed.

He reiterated that 100% delivery was the aim. He would supply the sector and provincial plans to the Committee. The Edusolutions court case was not finalised and he would update the members when it was.

An ‘audi-synch’ solution was being investigated for visually impaired learners, but Braille would also be supplied.

It was difficult to enforce a standardised model as each province was in charge of its own budget and had its own supply chain management (SCM). Limpopo using price as a selection criterion had no impact on quality as they purchased from the same catalogue as all other provinces. They simply negotiated lower prices when their orders were consolidated. Their budget per learner was the lowest, using the same textbooks. Each model within each province was working and would be difficult to standardise but provinces did present at and discuss best practice at LTSM fora.

Regarding the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State delivered from the district offices. Publishers had 100% completed deliveries to districts and deliveries to schools would be complete by mid November. It had fewer schools than other provinces and distances were shorter. KwaZulu-Natal used an agent model and had started the process late. The DBE had written to the provincial head of department and Member of the Executive Committee for plans to ensure completion. Regarding the introduction to African languages, workbooks were close to completion (deadline end November).

Regarding DBE staff employed at Edusolutions, Mr Subban could not comment.

Mr Subban replied to the question about reporting on stationery and textbook procurement together, saying in some provinces, schools retained funds to purchase stationery themselves. One province did it centrally, which was a saving. As stated before, best practices were shared.

Schools, districts and provincial departments had been informed of the need to retrieve textbooks and to report on the percentage retrieved. Those who retained a higher percentage should receive some form of incentive and those who retained only 30 to 50% should be held accountable. The life of a textbook should be five years.

Mr Govender added that some provinces had LTSM oversight committees to ensure the reliability of reports and management processes. By 2014 CAPS implementation from Grades 4 to 12 would be complete so LTSM costs should decline dramatically. Regarding distribution agents’ reliability, there were service level agreements in place. Payments and proof of delivery were monitored and if there were errors, a new delivery note had to be issued.

On DBE taking over the role of textbook developers, Mr Govender said this was probable as expertise was available in the Department.

There was only one catalogue but provinces had leeway, once a publication had been through the selection process, to engage individually about the price.

Regarding action against service providers who failed to deliver, at provincial level problems lay with small publishers and small orders which were sometimes not viable to deliver. In some provinces, such a supplier would be blacklisted.

Retrieval involved accountability in the proper utilisation of the budget. Some schools, however, had infrastructure difficulties.

The Chairperson invited a further round of questions. Mr Mpontshane asked if textbook selection committees still existed, saying that some history textbooks showed a bias towards a particular political party. He reiterated his question about Edusolutions but the Chair interjected to say that Mr Subban had promised an update when the litigation was over.

Ms Lovemore expressed scepticism that every child would receive a textbook for every subject in his or her grade, especially in Limpopo or the Eastern Cape where 90% of the budget was spent on staffing. On average, each child gets eight workbooks but similar figures for textbooks were not given. The last dataset had been in 2011 and that had not been public.

Mr Subban said that CAPS specified textbook content and publishers submitted their books to a selection committee. Stringent processes were observed, including cultural sensitivity, and specialists were brought in to different selection committees.

Mr Makhubele observed that the Department had not listed many challenges and the Chairperson said that those given had been external. She asked for Committee members to be updated fortnightly on each province. She commented that everyone would agree that a proper retrieval policy was needed and asked that this be made available to members to.

Committee Report on study tour to Botswana
Ms Lovemore was disappointed that the recommendations were not more comprehensive (because there was much in Botswana that could and should be emulated) and it had been agreed that these should be expanded by a working group to be convened before being adopted.

Mr Makhublele moved, and Mr Smiles agreed, that the draft report on the oversight visit to the Western Cape be adopted, provided that a short conclusion was added before the recommendations.

The Committee also approved previous minutes and the meeting was adjourned.
 

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