DURBAN - TEACHER unions and education portfolio committee members in KwaZulu-Natal have lambasted the provincial Education Department for its failure to fill vacant teachers’ posts.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) picketed on Tuesday because of the issue.
Sadtu spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said: “Some of the issues have got to do with the fact that there are many teacher posts that have not been filled and that is frustrating a lot of our members because they cannot teach effectively.”
Cynthia Barnes, general secretary of the National Teachers’ Union, said in KZN there were several teachers who had succumbed to Covid-19, but they were yet to be replaced.
She said the union had been raising the issue of the high number of vacancies with the department.
“It’s saddening that our pupils, especially the Grade 12s, have been enduring a lot of time without teachers and yet they have exams coming up. When a school starts to have no teachers for core subjects such as maths and science, it’s alarming.
“The department introduced an app to employ teachers, however, that seems to be moving at a very slow pace,” said Barnes.
She said the department should do away with substitute teachers and employ them permanently.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) spokesperson Therona Moodley said the provincial department had failed to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that every class had a teacher.
“Since the opening of schools this year, schools have reported vacancies that to date remain unfilled,” said Moodley, adding that this was unacceptable as other teachers were burdened with carrying the extra load or the pupils were not taught.
Moodley said the union had called the department out on this, and the response was that budget cuts had hit the department hard.
“Some extraordinary intervention is required.”
Imran Keeka, DA KZN spokesperson on education, said the department needed to act immediately to address the staff shortage issue.
He said almost 6114 posts had not been filled.
“The consequence is that it may result in larger classes and school closures. The big question is, where did the money go and where will more come from?” asked Keeka.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee on education in KZN, Sifiso Sonjica said the committee had acknowledged the problem posed by the shortages of teachers, but said it affected the country and not just KZN.
Sonjica said this issue had a significant impact on exam results.
“We are very concerned and this is one of our top priorities as a portfolio committee. We are expecting regular updates from the department in our committee meetings on this matter.” he said.
Premier Sihle Zikalala, together with Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, met Sadtu members outside the Moses Mabhida Building in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday to receive their memorandum.
The union gave the provincial government seven days to tackle the issues they raised or their members would embark on a strike.
Zikalala said while they recognised the importance of the issues raised in the memorandum, the period given to respond to the query was short.
Nevertheless, Zikalala committed to look at the matters raised.
He said the province would engage with the national treasury on it.