More teacher sick leave cases uncovered

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Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education is investigating two more cases of teachers receiving salaries in spite of being on sick leave for almost a decade.

Last week the Daily News reported on a Phoenix teacher who has been on sick leave for seven years with an alleged sore throat while receiving full pay.

Another teacher at a primary school in Sydenham has been absent from school since 2005, also on full pay.

A well-placed source said that while he could not confirm what the ailment in that case was, the teacher had claimed sick leave just two months after arriving at the school in 2005, after she was injured when a ladder fell on her while in a shop.

He said she was pregnant at the time, and had since had another child while away from school.

“At the start of every term she submitted her leave form and we would get a substitute teacher.

“She’s receiving a full salary but this hasn’t been investigated,” the source said.

The teacher, when approached, said her matter was complicated and refused to comment further.

In the second new case, a high school teacher in Chatsworth has been fired but is appealing against her dismissal. She has been absent from school since 2006, for having “fainting and dizzy spells”.

The vice-chairman of the school’s governing body said the woman had been teaching at the school for four years before she started taking sick leave.

He said that, as was the case with the Sydenham teacher, a sick note was submitted at the start of every term.

“We have spoken to the department and written to them about this, but there has been no response,” he said.

“We have to hire a substitute teacher at the expense of the school governing body and this is disruptive to the pupils. She has not been at school a single day.”

He said the teacher had only applied to be medically boarded this year.

When the Daily News contacted the teacher, she said her husband answered questions about her illness. She then proceeded to call for her pills as she claimed to be having a panic attack while on the telephone.

The teacher’s husband, who asked not to be named, said she suffered from a range of illnesses but he could not disclose them. He said her salary had been “cut drastically” during her absence.

“We have an attending doctor who has been treating her but he did not feel she warranted being medically boarded. For the department you need to be just about on your deathbed for that to happen,” he said.

He said his wife would like to go back to teaching but was not well enough.

“We report every quarter to the department and they have been out to meet her. They can see she’s ill.”

He said they would meet the department soon to determine if his wife could be medically boarded.

According to Bhekisisa Mncube, spokesman for Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, the department was aware of both cases.

He confirmed the Sydenham teacher was on full pay and had been submitting sick leave forms since 2005.

“She applied for medical boarding once and it was turned down. She claims to suffer from depression and fibromyalgia/polyarthritis and takes home R8 790.79 after all statutory deductions.”

Mncube said the head of the education department would institute an “urgent probe” into her “long absence due to alleged illness” and “find an amicable way to mitigate the effects of her absence…”

Commenting on the Chatsworth teacher, Mncube said although she had been fired, she was receiving a portion of her salary – R5 329.45 – pending the finalisation of her appeal hearing.

“Her numerous applications for temporary incapacity – only approved once – and medical boarding have been turned down,” he said.

Mncube said that, if she were to “exit the employ” of the department, all money owed from being on unauthorised sick leave – a total of R549 412.65 – would be deducted from her pension payout.

“Last year she was found guilty (internally) on numerous charges including forging a medical certificate,” he said.

No criminal charges were being pursued, he said.

He said teaching and learning at the two schools had not been affected because substitute teachers had been hired.

Mncube said there was no issue with the leave system, but rather the people in the system that caused the problems.

“The head of department will look into all matters pertaining to the cases to see if any case of negligence exists,” he said.

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