File picture of pupils writing matric exams. Chris Collingridge African News agency (ANA)
File picture of pupils writing matric exams. Chris Collingridge African News agency (ANA)

KZN’s dire shortage of principals, deputies

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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DURBAN - MORE than 1 000 schools across KwaZulu-Natal are operating without school principals and other senior managers who are critical for the proper functioning of educational institutions.

A report on vacancies by the provincial Department of Education shows that across all districts there are 1 082 vacancies for principals, 283 for deputy principals and 617 for heads of department, bringing the total to 1 982 vacancies. The figures ware revealed by the provincial department yesterday.

The revelation has angered opposition parties who argued that the situation places pressure on already overburdened teachers while compromising the quality of education. A school principal said having a permanently appointed principal was critical to the functioning of a school, he said a full-time appointee commanded the respect of the staff and was able to make decisions that an acting principal could not make.

The department’s figures were a drastic reduction from the recorded figure of 3 049 contained in the parliamentary replies that had initially been given to the DA. The copy of the replies shows it was signed by the head of department Dr Enock Nzama and MEC Kwazi Mshengu on April 16.

Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said the figure contained in the parliamentary replies had been compiled in February and some of the vacancies had been filled since then.

The response from the department shows that the Pinetown District was among the worst affected as it was experiencing a shortage of 126 principals, 76 deputy principals and 126 heads of departments.

UMgungundlovu had a shortage of 123 principals, 25 deputy principals and 42 HODs, while uMlazi was in desperate need of 105 principals, 68 deputy principals and 203 HODs.

The Zululand District had a shortage of 108 principals, 9 deputy principals and 24 HODs.

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL and DA KZN spokesperson on Education, said the figures he had were the ones presented to him by the department recently.

He said these vacancies were not only at management level; in fact, the department had about 6 000 vacancies and had recently told the portfolio committee that without funds, it would struggle to fill these vacancies.

Keeka said the parliamentary replies also showed that the problem was not new, with shortages of 3 165 in 2020 and 2 676 in 2019.

“The information also shows that there has been very little improvement since 2020, with the DoE only managing to employ 116 more teachers since then,” he said.

“The DA is extremely concerned by this situation, which is completely unacceptable. The impact on pupils with senior staff shortages for half of the academic year – on top of the shortened school week, shortages of textbooks and improper infrastructure in far too many schools – is just too much. All of this is worsened by the recent budget cuts.

“The reply further states that there are 156 vacancies as a result of deaths as of the month of February. The MEC and his Department further claim that the vacancies will be advertised by April 15 and filled by June 18. How this will happen remains a mystery as there are no funds available,” said Keeka.

IFP Education spokesperson Thembeni KaMadlopha-Mthethwa said no institution could function properly with such a large number of vacancies.

“We have spoken on the issue of vacancies so many times, we would like an explanation from the department stating what are the delays in filling those posts as they were budgeted for, we want the MEC to put time frames on when these posts would be filled.”

She said these vacancies showed in school results: “We often hear that pupils have passed, but when you look at their certificates you realise that these will not take them anywhere.”

National Teachers Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said the statistics were a clear indication that the department was not doing its job.

“If the school does not have a principal or a deputy principal or both, how is that school being managed? These are the managers of the school.

“There are many teachers at different levels who died because of Covid-19 and they are not being replaced. People are appointed to act in those positions and are not paid, the department is abusing teachers,” she said.

THE MERCURY

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