Durban - The salaries of KwaZulu-Natal teachers on extended leave of absence will be frozen if they do not comply with requirements.
They could also find their irregular sick leave converted to backdated unpaid leave, and end up owing the KZN Department of Education thousands of rand.
The department said it was taking action against several teachers who had been away from school for years, and warned it would act against others.
“The department urges all absent teachers who have not submitted all required paperwork, if there is any, to return to work immediately,” said Bhekisisa Mncube, spokesman for Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni.
If not, their salaries would be frozen, he said.
The Daily News recently reported on three cases of extended teacher absenteeism at three separate schools in the province where the teachers had claimed they were suffering from a range of ailments, including a sore throat. Two more cases – one dating back to 2005 and another to 2008 – are now being investigated by the department as the teachers have exceeded the statutory 36 sick leave days over a three-year period.
Mncube confirmed that the salaries of two primary school teachers, from Durban and Isipingo, would be frozen from March 1.
The department would convert all their ordinary sick leave days granted into unpaid leave, he said, meaning the two teachers would owe the department thousands of rand.
The money will be deducted from their salaries if they return to work; otherwise it will be deducted from their pension payout when they leave the system.
Mncube said the Durban teacher had submitted ordinary leave forms from January 2008 and the Isipingo teacher from April 2005. The Isipingo teacher had applied for temporary incapacity leave in 2008, but it was turned down.
She had not reapplied.
“Teachers are supposed to submit an annexure signed by a medical doctor if they exceed their sick leave. They must then be assessed for incapacity leave and medically boarded if they cannot teach,” he said.
Mncube said they would take the same approach with a Sydenham teacher who had been absent, on full pay, since 2005.
“Principals need to contact the HoD (head of department) when teachers’ leave has been exceeded. They should refuse ordinary sick notes and insist on an assessment,” Mncube said.
Reginald Chiliza, chairman of the KZN Association of School Governing Bodies, said the department was already underfunded and did not need to waste money on teachers “abusing the system”.
Tim Gordon, chief executive of the national Governing Body Foundation, said the action was justified if the teachers were playing the system.