By JESSICA EVANS
The past few months have been difficult for local libraries, as 22 public libraries in the Sarah Baartman district, Eastern Cape have been without internet access since November last year. These include all seven in Makana Municipality.
Vox Telecom is the national service provider for public libraries and withdrew its services after the 22 libraries amassed a debt of over R1 million on their Vox accounts, according to Janie Maritz, accounts spokesperson of Vox Telecom, Eastern Cape. All 22 public library accounts were suspended for months before finally being cancelled in November.
The Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC) is responsible for paying these accounts and is not only in debt to the service provider, but has failed to reinstall internet access by April, as was originally put forward. DSRAC has not communicated with library committee members, despite efforts by these members to discuss the issue.
“As a member of the [Community Library] committee, I personally went to DSRAC to set up an appointment with the director but she wasn’t there and her PA said she would get back to me and that, too, did not materialise,” said Community Library committee secretary and liaison officer, Lizanne Du Preez.
This comes after an email sent to the director of DSRAC, Sarah Baartman, was left unacknowledged. San Knoetze, education researcher and adviser to the community library committee, said, “I don’t think that people have actively attempted to get this changed because we sit with the official position that is ‘we’ll come back to you’”.
As a teacher at George Dickerson primary school, Du Preez has witnessed the consequences of the public libraries in the area not having internet and its impact on school pupils. “Learners cannot do research projects,” explained Du Preez.
Knoetze said, “I have, on numerous occasions, witnessed the fact that these students come in the afternoon and they cannot access information. Teachers give assignments and then learners are supposed to be able to use Community Library to support their research.
“Current information and variety of sources is the way in which learners of 2018 are supposed to engage with information,” said Knoetze.
DSRAC has been approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.