DURBAN - The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal has come under fire again from unions for failing to fill vacant teacher posts.
This was after the revelation that there were schools that were still continuing with a rotational system because they were short of teachers. The Daily News has discovered that Bhekisisa High School in Ntuzuma was short of 10 teachers with only nine teachers for 650 pupils.
A teacher who asked not to be named said when Minister of Education Angie Motshekga announced the full return of pupils at the beginning of the month their school told parents and pupils that rotation would continue because the school did not have enough staff.
Apart from the shortage of teachers, the teacher said the school also did not have enough furniture, including desks, saying even if they got teachers on Wednesday they would still be forced to continue with the rotational system.
“There are a lot of things to be fixed here in order to call this a proper school. We have not over-admitted because we have enough space but need resources,” said the teacher.
National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) provincial chief executive Thirona Moodley said schools were still struggling because the department had not filled the vacant posts, saying the number of vacant posts was growing every year because retired and dead teachers were not being replaced.
She added that more teachers were emigrating to China and the Middle East but the government was not replacing them. Moodley said her union sympathised with schools which were still rotating pupils.
“We are having a serious problem. We know in Pinetown there is a school which is short of 16 teachers. The ratio is 1:30 but you find one teacher has to teach 60 to 70 pupils. We need answers from the government. Our main concern is that the affected schools are those in poor communities where parents cannot afford to hire teachers, unlike affluent schools.”
National Teachers Union (Natu) national secretary Cynthia Barnes said if the matric pass rate declined the government would have to take the blame because it was failing to provide resources, adding it would be unfair for the government to expect a 100% pass rate from schools where there were no teachers.
Unemployed Qualified Teachers spokesperson Mlekeleli Radebe also weighed in, saying there were more than 10 000 qualified teachers who were languishing in poverty because of the government moratorium on employing teachers.
Bhekisisa High School governing body chairperson Mamsie Mhlungu said the situation was very bad and teachers were overworked, adding that classes and toilets were also not enough to allow for the return of pupils at full capacity. She said the school had three toilets for boys and three for girls.
“We need help urgently. Teachers complain to us every day about this, they want all pupils to return to school because this rotational system has its own problems but there is nothing we can do,” said the chairperson.
Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department had noticed that in the last two years there were schools that had over-admitted pupils and because they were rotating they never felt the pressure they were now facing.
“Remember there have been talks of the new normal which was going to be with us for a long time. The sudden call to full attendance has caught up with many schools. Unfortunately, these are our township schools.”
Last year, teachers marched in Pietermaritzburg to demand the filling of more than 2 000 posts, but instead, the department announced that it was planning to retrench more than 300 staff after budget cuts.
It has since said it was cancelling retrenchments but not hiring.