Cape Town - A total of 32 Eastern Cape schools are taking Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to court to compel her to ensure scores of teachers appointed on a temporary basis be paid and be made permanent.

The opt-in class action lawsuit was expected to be heard in the Grahamstown High Court on Thursday. According to the Legal Resources Centre, if the court certifies this class action, it will be the first in South Africa.

Schools had not been able to function properly and had had to pay the temporary teachers out of their own funds, argued the school governing body (SGB) of Linkside High School in Port Elizabeth and the SGBs of 31 other affected schools, represented by the centre.

In their heads of argument, the applicants wrote: “The applicant schools face an acute crisis due to the failure of the respondents to implement the 2014 teacher post establishment and to appoint permanent teachers against vacant substantive posts. The respondents have failed to fulfil their obligations to ensure an adequate teacher complement at schools in the Eastern Cape in 2014.”

The papers went on to say that the practical effects of this had been twofold:

* “At worst, the applicant schools have been without teachers in these posts, in other words, without enough teachers to function properly.”

* “At best, the parents of pupils at the applicant schools have had to pay for such teachers themselves, through their school fees or special fund-raising, even if this means there is no money left for other essential school activities.”

The applicants sought immediate relief to secure the permanent appointment of teachers and to secure reimbursement of the payment that had been made to teachers filling vacant posts.

Also sought by the applicants was leave to certify an opt-in class action on behalf of all schools in similar situations in the Eastern Cape which might seek legal relief.

“Due to the number of schools involved and due to the fact that the precise details of their complaints are not currently available, it is not possible for substantive relief not to be sought in respect of them immediately.”

The respondents were Motshekga, Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan, Education MEC Mandla Makupula and head of the Eastern Cape Education Department Mthunywa Ngonzo.

They argued that “budget for post establishment is being exhausted by the present teachers in excess and that on this basis it is unable to make permanent appointments to vacant substantive posts pending, at least, the movement of teachers in excess”.

“The respondents have recognised that there may be schools who have engaged teachers in circumstances for which they may be liable to reimburse such schools. These claims, however, will need to be proved…”

“…it was not up to the applicants to dictate that the department must appoint persons selected by them.

“For this reason the relief sought is misplaced and the application must fail with costs following the result.”

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Cape Times