Unions felt the department was not treating the filling of teacher posts as a priority. Picture: Oupa Mokoena
Unions felt the department was not treating the filling of teacher posts as a priority. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Teachers who died of Covid-19 have not been replaced

By Sne Masuku Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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DURBAN - MORE than 1 000 teachers countrywide have died from Covid-19. Some resigned for safety reasons, while others with life-threatening comorbidities chose to stay at home. They have not been replaced, leaving schools with crowded classrooms.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last week said her department had a total of 24 556 vacant teacher posts, but said this did not mean there was a shortage of teachers at schools, and insisted the vacancies did not imply that there were learners who were left unattended at schools.

She said her department was in the process of finalising the teacher appointments and assured there were more than enough teachers in the country than the system could accommodate.

Teacher unions in KwaZulu-Natal said while this was not an accurate figure of exactly how many teachers had died from Covid-19, had resigned or were on sick leave due to their chronic illnesses, which made them vulnerable to the pandemic, teachers who remained in the classrooms were having it tough.

Unions felt the department was not treating the filling of teacher posts as a priority.

SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said classrooms were overcrowded because of floor space challenges and how teacher allocation was done.

“There is no shortage of teachers in the society, as there are thousands of unemployed teachers looking for jobs.

“Even from the employer’s side, there is no transparency on how many vacancies needed to be filled.

“At some point the department said that it had received 3 000 applications for concessions for teachers with comorbidities, which lapsed when the country moved to level 1. Some were not in a condition to return to work,” said Caluza.

“Sadtu called for an expedited process. We called the department to meetings on three consecutive days in March and we refused to leave the meeting until they committed to doing something about this situation. Some of the vacancies were filled.

“According to the numbers we have on paper, KZN needed to fill about 817 more vacant teacher posts. We believe there are more vacant posts that we may not be aware of.”

Caluza said schools close on Friday for the first term, without the posts being filled, and the principal would have to explain to the teachers and parents what was happening.

“There is no sense of urgency. It is like the department’s human resources department is operating from its own corner and there is no connection between schools and the department,” said Caluza.

Sadtu and the Educators Union of SA (Eusa) complained that the Post Provisioning Norm (PPN) model, an assessment made by the education department in placing staff according to the school requirements, remained a problem as more time was spent on placing surplus teachers.

Eusa said there were schools which had 40 to 50 learners in just one classroom.

“There are schools that are forced to have classes in groups; one group in the early morning, and then late in the evening, in order to ensure that teaching and learning continues despite the shortage.

“If (Minister Angie) Motshekga wants to insist that there is no shortage of teachers in schools and that pupils were not being affected, then she was speaking from an uninformed perspective, said Eusa president Scelo Bhengu.

Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said it was untrue to say the department was not serious about filling these posts.

“The MEC has written to the premier asking for more funding to fill these posts. Most open vacancies are for mathematics, science and technology teachers in excess of 961 teachers,” he said.

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