SA’s education only stands a chance if it’s supported by effective text book distribution


All the will in the world to offer effective free education to South Africa’s most marginalised children will come to nothing if they don’t have access to the tools they need – starting with textbooks, along with stationery and exercise books. That’s why a specialist delivery partner is essential to the success of basic education in South Africa.

It’s not ‘new’ news that the delivery of textbooks to South Africa’s learners in remote areas of the country has been a challenge, with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) first came under fire for non-delivery of textbooks a decade ago after the implementation of a new curriculum. This in turn was followed by multiple court cases instituted by Section 27, representing Basic Education for All (BEFA). 

After a sustained campaign that played out in the courts and in media, text book delivery improved in 2013 and 2014, although several schools still did not receive any textbooks at all during that year. 

By 2020,the Department’s failure to ensure access to printed learning materials continued to prevent the country’s children from accessing their right to basic education – a right that was even further disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When learners were encouraged to continue studying at home, many schools implemented measures to support remote learning. These were very well intentioned, apart from the fact that only 21.5% of South African households own a computer, and even though more than 60% of households had access to the Internet on their phones, just 10% had it at home. 

This meant that only 51% of schools could send work home with students, because many were short of textbooks and workbooks, and did not have an on-site printer to produce their own worksheets. When children were able to go back to school, there were often insufficient books for each child, meaning that they had to share – unable to maintain the required social distancing space of 1.5 metres that was in place at the time. The complexities around COVID-19 regulations again meant that it was difficult for logistics partners without knowledge of managing deliveries in remote areas to get books to children.

A Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) study added even more startling context: 20% of students were not able to charge their devices as needed, with half of the students interviewed saying that they found using a smartphone for academic purposes ‘somewhat too difficult’. 

This means that, even though smartphone penetration reached 91.2% pre-pandemic, school children still need textbooks if they are going to learn effectively – and that the challenge of delivering these books to learners in remote areas remains. 

(Nearly) post-pandemic, more than 4,700 Eastern Cape schools had still not received their textbooks at the beginning of the 2022 academic year

According to the DBE itself, textbooks ‘help teachers manage lessons, save time, give direction to lessons, guide discussions, facilitate homework, and make teaching easier, better organised, and more convenient’. They give teachers confidence and security in the classroom. Teachers themselves are not always able to access additional resources – particularly those working in resource-poor schools in remote areas, which is why they depend heavily on the timeous delivery of textbooks each year.

Learners trust them as a framework that helps them organise their learning inside and outside the classroom, helping them learn ‘better, faster, clearer, and more easily.’

It’s clear: despite South Africa’s ongoing drive towards digitalisation, hard copy textbooks are still essential in public sector schooling, and the DBE needs to have trusted partners that specialise in logistics across the country’s vast landscapes, to get those textbooks and other learning materials into the hands that need them.

Those partners need to have an understanding of how to plot and plan efficient routes through the country’s most remote and difficult to reach areas, drawing on their experience and engagement with local communities to deliver textbooks to make deliveries to all schools – not just the ones that are easy to reach.

That’s because the DBE’s role is to curate the curriculum for primary and secondary schools, to manage schools and their resources, and to ensure that there are enough teachers on site to educate the country’s children. 

A dependable logistics partner that picks and packs textbooks and stationery per school and per grade, no matter where they may be, is an essential link in the chain, and it makes sense to trust a service provider that has already proved its mettle in the competitive retail logistics industry. 

Having packing and distribution hubs across the country means that smaller or rural schools get the same service as bigger schools – and they get it long before the beginning of the new school year, so that learning can begin on the first day of term. 

The right service provider understands the importance of paying careful attention to each grade and school’s requirements, so that they get enough copies of the right textbooks to support their teachers and learners. Even at such a massive scale, individual attention to each school’s requirements contributes to the school’s success, as teachers’ pride in their resources and their ability to offer comprehensive tuition to learners shows results over time. 

In our 10+ years of delivering school text books and stationery to schools and retail outlets across South Africa, we’ve also learned that delivering text books is about so much more than collecting a parcel and dropping it off. 

Doing that, and only that, often sees unopened boxes left untouched in storage, where they can’t be used as they’re supposed to be.

At DPD Laser Education, we’ve observed that the commitment of the driver who is delivering vital academic materials can be as important as the teacher who will eventually deliver the content to the children. Without these drivers’ determination to get the right books into the right hands, text books could continue to languish unattended and unused, compromising learners’ rights to education. 

Offering a delivery service that specialises in education is about so much more than delivering textbooks. It’s about understanding the nuances of the sector, and having insights into how each link in the education chain needs to work together to achieve the most important goal of all: the education of the children who are South Africa’s future.

About DPD Laser:

DPD Laser is one of South Africa’s leading express courier companies. DPD Laser specialises in time definite express services for parcels up to 30kgs for both B2B and B2C segments in South Africa, as well as international markets.

With a strong national footprint of 25+ depots, over 1500 delivery experts, more than 500 vehicles and our international partner, DPD Group, we are able to meet all your distribution needs. In addition DPD Laser has built a number of specialist solutions to support industry specific needs, such as Education. We understand the need to consider multiple distribution channels in the education sector and as a hybrid B2B /B2C final mile distribution business, we are able to utilise the same extensive network to efficiently deliver to educational institutions, retail outlets as well as to an increasing number of home deliveries.

We keep things simple so that doing business with us is perfectly convenient.

DPD Laser is a proud Level 2 B-BBEE contributor.

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