Pretoria - More than 30 000 teachers in all of Gauteng’s 15 district schools have reportedly been absent from work since the beginning of this year.
The latest information emerges as the Gauteng Department of Education is on Monday expected to notify parents whether their children - who applied online for admission to Grade 1 and 8 - are successful in their applications.
But these revelations by Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi are likely to cast doubt on the performance of some schools, especially at districts which have recorded the highest absenteeisms.
Lesufi laid bare the grim figures recently in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature during his response to written questions by DA spokesman on education Khume Ramulifho who queried the number of absenteeism in the province from January until the first quarter.
Gauteng has just over 84000 teachers who are on the provincial Department of Education’s payroll.
More shocking, however, is that of the 31731 absentee teachers, 110 of them have been absent without leave from January until May.
The highest number of truant teachers are said to be in Joburg Central which recorded 54 absent teachers.
The area is followed by Gauteng North which has 15 absentees, while Ekurhuleni South and Tshwane West have each recorded nine absentee teachers without leave of absence.
In his reply, Lesufi said the highest number of absentee teachers were found in Ekurhuleni which recorded 3708 in its North district of education. Tshwane South recorded the second highest with 3360 absenteeism, while Ekurhuleni South recorded the third highest with 2743.
Lesufi did not give reasons for this high absenteeism but has vowed to deal with the 110 teachers who failed to obtain leave of absence. “The department always institutes relevant disciplinary processes against employees who absent themselves from work without leave granted, as it is classified as misconduct,” Lesufi said.
He also conceded that continuous absenteeism by “individual teachers may lead to incomplete coverage of the academic syllabus and may subsequently have an adverse impact on the performance of learners”.
Gauteng education acting spokesman Oupa Bodibe said some teachers' services were automatically terminated for absence without authorisation this financial year”.
“The department always encourages schools to implement catch-up plans to assist learners,” Bodibe said.
Ramulifho described the absenteeism as “a crisis of gargantuan proportions”.
“The Democratic Alliance has long proposed the introduction of a National Education Inspectorate to ensure that teachers and principals are supported and held accountable for the performance of their learners. This was rejected by ANC ally Sadtu which has no interest in improving the quality of education, and Lesufi lacks the courage and political will to rein in this destructive union.
“It has become abundantly clear that Lesufi runs a high-level public relations campaign through the launch of various 'good story to tell' initiatives, which do not address the real problems in the education system - in this case, teacher absenteeism,” he said.
Ramulifho added that the failure of teachers to show up to execute their duties and responsibilities undermined the project of safeguarding a prosperous future and a skilled workforce.
Gauteng Sadtu secretary Tseliso Ledimo said they are going to probe the absenteeism especially the conduct of teachers who were absent without leave.
“We are worried about the high level of absenteeism. We have to get to the root of it,” Ledimo said.
Meanwhile, the National Professional Teachers Association (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said the Department of Education should also bear the brunt of blame. Manuel said teachers were overworked through the department's continuous assessment, as well as overcrowding in schools.
“Teachers work under enormous administrative pressure, especially the marking of scripts while facing continuous assessment which leads to them to burn out. Let us attend to the real cause of absenteeism. Let us look at the system and the frequency of assessments as well as overcrowding in schools. All these factors have an impact,” Manuel said.