File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Teachers apply to be excused from class

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Jun 30, 2020

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Durban - Thousands of teachers have applied to be excused from returning to the classroom because of age and underlying health conditions that put them at risk of illness or death if they get infected with Covid-19.

Teacher unions estimate that thousands of teachers in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education have applied.

The department has about 90000 teachers.

KwaZulu-Natal head of department Dr Enock Nzama said several applications had been received from teachers and pupils with comorbidity issues.

“The application process closed last week and we have received many applications from teachers. At this point I cannot say how many applications we have received, as we are still busy with the process. But we have received many.

“There are also pupils who have comorbidity issues who have applied, and we have urged their parents to attach the medical reports to these applications,” he said.

In the case of the pupils, if the applications were approved, parents would have to ensure that these pupils were home schooled. The department had warned before that it reserved the right to visit pupils who were being home schooled to ensure they were being taught.

Nzama said they were concerned about the availability of funds needed to hire substitute teachers.

While the department had the biggest slice of the budget in the province at R54billion, it was financially stretched and had struggled to meet some of its infrastructure needs, including the building of new schools.

“This could prove to be a very difficult process for the department, as we had not budgeted for this and had not anticipated we could be so hard hit by Covid-19,” he said.

Last week, members of the Basic Education portfolio committee debated the issue of teachers with co-morbidity issues.

They said some of these teachers were responsible for gateway subjects and the department should look into finding ways of retaining them.

National Teachers Union (Natu) president Allen Thompson said the number of teachers who might not be able to come back was significant.

“There was a report released last year stating that about 60% of teachers in KZN were between the ages of 55 and 60 - that spells out the scope of the issue. The first point is that, according to the Department of Health’s regulations, people aged 60 or above are vulnerable and must stay home. The second issue is that there are teachers who are below the age of 60 but have underlying issues; they, too, must stay home. But, fortunately, there are many teachers who are unemployed who should be employed. What we do not want is a situation where Grade 12 pupils are taught by teachers who are not qualified to teach them,” he said.

He said they would be meeting with the department to address some of these issues.

Provincial chief executive of National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), Thirona Moodley, said that they believed there were more than 3000 teachers older than 60 in the province.

“These teachers can work from home or come to school, but the school environment must be adjusted to minimise risk.”

The Mercury

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