1 Learner, 1 Textbook

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Shakes" Matyesini explores how the lack of textbooks is affecting his, and others, education. This article originally appeared in the June 2010 edition of The Equalizer.

By Olwethu 'Shakes' Matysini


My name is Olwethu Matyesini and I am a Grade 12 learner at Chris Hani Senior Secondary School in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. I am the first person in my family to reach Matric, and there are high expectations that I will pass this year well and go on to study at university. Next year, I want to study for a degree in Language and Communications at UCT. This is my dream, and my fellow learners have big dreams too.


However, it is four months into Matric and my fellow learners and I are faced with a huge problem: we don’t have textbooks. I, for example, study seven subjects at school and have access to textbooks for only two of those subjects, isiXhosa and Life Orientation. For isiXhosa I have to share the three prescribed textbooks with another learner, while for Life Orientation I have my own textbook.  For Maths, English, Physical Science, Life Science and Music, I have no access whatsoever to a textbook. This means that I cannot do homework for these subjects, and that I only have my class-notes from which to study for them.


 My Physics teacher sometimes lends me her own textbook. Even though she trusts me, she gets very nervous when she does this because she is scared that I might lose her textbook. 


Having to share a textbook is also not a good thing. Last term, the person that I share my Xhosa textbooks with lost one of them, a novel called Ukhozi Olumaphiko, written by Ncedile Sawule. Unfortunately for me, my isiXhosa control test for the term was on Ukhozi Olumaphiko. Remember, these are the marks that will determine my future.

When I spoke to one of my teachers about the textbook shortages, she said that there was nothing she could do, as there were no more textbooks left in the school and they had already ordered more textbooks. But we are still waiting for those textbooks.


Last term my class, 12A, decided that we needed to do something about this problem. We went out and collected textbooks from past Grade 12 learners, as well as learners currently at Chris Hani who had not returned their previous year’s textbooks. We were shocked to find out how many learners do not return their textbooks. Some of them give their textbooks to their friends and family members at other schools where there are also textbook shortages. Others, as they told us, keep their textbooks as souvenirs! Learners must not be selfish. They must return their textbooks to their school so that other learners can use them. 


Unfortunately, the textbooks that we recovered did not solve the textbook-shortage problem at my school. The truth is that there are not enough textbooks, and every day we are being disadvantaged by this. My friends at other schools in Khayelitsha and Kraaifontein also don’t have textbooks.  Township learners like us can’t go and buy our own textbooks like learners in former Model-C schools .We can’t afford to. We need Government to supply the textbooks to our schools – enough for all of us.  My dream to study at UCT and the dreams of my fellow learners depend on this.