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More than 30 000 teachers have been absent from school since the beginning of the year in Gauteng in all 15 provincial districts of education.

Gauteng has just over 84000 teachers on the payroll of the provincial Department of Education.

Of the 31731 absentee teachers, 110 had been absent without leave from January until May.

These shocking details were revealed by Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi, in his response to written questions from the DA in the provincial legislature.

Joburg Central recorded the highest number of teachers who did not pitch for work - 54 teachers there were absent without leave followed by Gauteng North, with 15 absentees.

Ekurhuleni South and Tshwane West each recorded nine teachers without leave of absence.

Joburg East, Ekurhuleni North and Tshwane North recorded six, four and three respectively, while Joburg South, Sedibeng West and Tshwane South recorded two apiece.

Ekurhuleni had the highest number of absentee teachers, Lesufi said, with 3708 in its north district. Tshwane South recorded the second-highest with 3360 absentees, while Ekurhuleni South registered the third-highest with 2743. Joburg Central recorded 2687, Gauteng East, which is also part of Ekurhuleni, had 2 643, Gauteng West had 2 563, while Tshwane West recorded 2 465.

The lowest figures were recorded in Joburg West, with 777 absentees registered.

Lesufi, in his written reply, did not give reasons for the high absenteeism but has vowed to deal with the 110 teachers.

“The department always institutes relevant disciplinary processes against employees who absent themselves from work without leave granted, as it is classified as misconduct,” he said.

Lesufi 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.

“However, in cases of prolonged absenteeism, the department ensures that there is a replacement/substitute teacher to ensure continuity in teaching and learning,” he said.

Gauteng education acting spokesperson Oupa Bodibe said some “educators' services were automatically terminated for absence without authorisation this financial year”.

Meanwhile, the DA's spokesperson on education, Khume Ramulifho, described the absenteeism as “a crisis of gargantuan proportions".

“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 don’t address the real problems in the education system, in this case teacher absenteeism,” Ramulifho said.

Gauteng Sadtu secretary Tseliso Ledimo said the union would probe the absenteeism, particularly the conduct of teachers who were absent without leave.

“We’re worried about the high level of absenteeism. We have to get to the root of it.”

Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teachers Association, said the department should bear the brunt of blame.

Teachers were overworked through the department’s continuous assessment, and schools were overcrowded. “Teachers work under enormous administrative pressure, especially with the marking of scripts and continuous assessment.”

Saturday Star