DURBAN - PHOENIX teacher found guilty of falsifying a doctor’s certificate in 2015 after being on sick leave for 1522 days over 10 years has bagged a position in the Department of Education’s human resources division.
But even at her new job the former Hopeville Primary teacher, who is known to the Sunday Tribune only as Ms T Naicker, has reported for just two days and has since been on “permanent sick leave”.
This is according to the KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane, who recently responded to a query in the provincial legislature about Naicker’s case.
Dlungwane said Naicker was axed after the department conducted an investigation during the tenure of his predecessor, Peggy Nkonyeni.
Naicker appealed against the verdict but her appeal was dismissed in 2016, Dlungwane said in a written reply to a question posed by DA MPL George Mari.
Naicker then applied for medical boarding, but this was also declined by Thandile Risk Management, the consultants for the department.
Instead, the consultants advised the department to explore alternative avenues. It is alleged that two officials in the department recommended that she be deployed to the human resources department.
She reported to her new post “for two days only and subsequently submitted a medical certificate (and) is still on sick leave”, said Dlungwane, who took over the reins of the department from Nkonyeni in 2016. He fired almost 300 teachers last year for an array of transgressions, including absenteeism.
Education Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said: “We take the issue of absenteeism very seriously. We are not running a tuck shop but a serious department and we don’t want to gamble with the pupils’ future.”
But why the department decided to re-employ Naicker in its human resources department after she was dismissed as a teacher is the burning question.
The department has not yet answered the Sunday Tribune’s queries about when Naicker took up her new human resources post and how long she has been booked off sick.
While employed at Hopeville Primary, Naicker was paid R519420 for the 1522 days she took off. The DA is poised to raise a stink about what it described as “shocking” mismanagement.
“This teacher is essentially employed by the provincial government. Her salary comes from the taxpayers of this province. That they should have to shell out more than half a million rand to someone who clearly has no interest in working is shocking,” he said.
Mari said it was highly irregular for the department to re-employ a person dismissed on serious charges of misconduct.
“Firstly, that a teacher can take so many sick days over so many years is simply incomprehensible. The fact that the department then offered her a job, in a division which monitors issues such as time off is simply laughable,” he said.
Equally worrying, said Mari, was that the pupils had been on the receiving end of Naicker’s absenteeism over 10 years with her spending more time off sick than at work.
“The DA will follow up to establish what contingency measures were put in place during the teacher’s prolonged absence. Most schools operate on tight budgets and one wonders where the extra funds would have come from for a substitute teacher,” said Mari.
Equal Education is also angry.
Mercia Andrew, chairperson of Equal Education, said: “We are outraged by the story of this teacher who has been on sick leave for so many days.”