The department on Sunday said it had noted the concern by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding the delay in the delivery of stationery to schools in the province.
However, the department said it is perturbed by an outcry that some schools have not been provided with textbooks.
The department said it is not delivering a new set of textbooks this year, but only top-ups as well as new syllabus for set works with deliveries currently being done to about 222 schools.
With regard to delivery of stationery, the department said it is acutely aware of the constraints faced by the learners who have not yet received stationery.
“We are currently trying by all means to ensure that the delivery is completed by 26 January 2017.”
The department said it intended to participate in the contract arranged by National Treasury in preparation for the current academic year when the previous contract for the stationery expired in 2016.
However, due to some delays in finalising the participation, the department had to come up with a contingency measure in October 2016 and commenced with the arrangement of a provincial contract, which was awarded to African Papers Products (Pty) Ltd in December 2016.
It said the bid could not be awarded to more than one supplier due to the material price difference and forgo a huge savings.
“Splitting the award among more than one supplier could have gone against the principle of cost-effectiveness as this would have resulted in additional spending of at least R150 million,” the department said.
The supplier updates the department at least once a day on progress made in order to clear any backlog in an effort to fast-track delivery. It has so far delivered to more than 60% of schools.
The department said the term of the awarded stationery bid is three years, adding that it signed an agreement with the supplier to complete deliveries by June of the preceding calendar year for the next two academic years.
The department said it is considering a longer term procurement model to ensure continuous and uninterrupted delivery of scholastic stationery and textbooks to circumvent recurrence of this challenge in future.
It hoped that the efforts will also contribute towards the improvement of matric results in the province.
Basic Education weighs in
Meanwhile, the Basic Education Department has expressed disappointment over a media statement issued by the SAHRC.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the commission has chosen to communicate with the Minister of Basic Education through a media statement instead of engaging the department directly,” said the department.
It said the SAHRC could have consulted with it or the Limpopo Education Department.
“We have always cooperated with the commission in all previous occasions and we consider it an important institution for the advancement of our constitution.
“It came as a shock to read via the media that the Minister had been given a deadline to make an undertaking about a task which the province was already handling.”
According to the department, the Judge in the North Gauteng High Court in 2015 encouraged more dialogue between the commission and the department.
As a result, the department said it will request a meeting with the commission to discuss the matter.
Since 2012, more than R2 billion has been spent on the provisioning of learner teacher material in Limpopo only.
The department said it delivers supplementary material every year to augment what has already been delivered to schools.
“It must be made clear that the provincial education department is not delivering new sets of textbooks but only top-ups to certain schools where shortages were reported as a result of lost textbooks or increase in learner enrolment.
“We suggest the commission should rather join the department in spreading the message to learners and parents about the importance of returning textbooks at the end of every school year.”