A picture shows on February 7, 2013 a blackboard at the Alapha Secondary School in Bayswater, a village near Limpopo, South Africa. The school, built by parents in 1985, welcomes in its five classrooms students from poor background. Without library, laboratory or running water, teachers and pupils are even determined to improve the last year results, Principal Jonas Ramapuputla said.   AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Durban - The Department of Education says fears that schools will not be permitted to hire new teachers are unfounded.

The department was responding to concerns raised by the National Teachers Union (Natu) regarding a possible shortage of teachers.

Natu deputy president, Allen Thompson, said the union had been contacted by principals who were worried that, with the influx of pupils at the start of the year, there was a shortage of teachers.

The confusion arose because of a circular issued by the Department of Education in October that instructed principals not to hire new teachers as a cost-saving technique.

“We are taking it for granted that principals cannot hire more teachers this year. We have contacted the MEC for a meeting (to discuss this), but have had no feedback.

“They need to write a new circular saying the principal has the right to employ teachers as long as the post provisional norms are adhered to, which is determined by the teacher-to-learner ratio.”

Thompson said they had instructed principals to enrol as many pupils as space allowed, but not to oversubscribe.

“There has been an increase of learners to schools where, last year, enrolment had declined. The results have improved so, instead of going to former Model C schools, parents are taking their children back to township schools.”

Anthony Pierce, provincial spokesman for the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said they had not received reports of teacher shortages, but that challenges might arise in rural areas where teachers’ services were terminated last year.

“Where cases warrant additional teachers, the department has asked for motivation.”

Spokesman for the Department of Education, Muzi Mahlambi, said the circular which put a freeze on new hires was for the end of the 2013 school year.

He said, even so, in dire circumstances, schools could apply for substitute teachers, although none did.

“Now schools can make applications (for new teacher hires).

“They just need to explain the individual cases to the head of department.”

He said the department would have a clearer understanding of where teachers were needed in the province when they received the 10-days’ statistics.

These were compiled from feedback from principals on the 10th school day of the year.

“This will give us a global picture of KwaZulu-Natal, of the migration of learners from areas, and where there is a demand for teachers.

“This helps us plan strategically.”

Mahlambi also warned against schools becoming oversubscribed while other schools were under-utilised.

“Circuit managers must manage and redirect demand to other schools so that there is an equitable share of demand.”

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