BEWARE: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekgas department wants to tackle absenteeism. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

NONTOBEKO MTSHALI

THE DEPARTMENT of Basic Education is set to tighten guidelines regulating teacher absenteeism. It averages more than two weeks of school time a year per teacher.

According to a study commissioned by the department in 2009, the absenteeism rate in SA’s public schools is 8 percent.

The department said this figure, which excludes those absent because of maternity leave, translates on average to 16 days of school time being lost by each teacher per school year. Gauteng is above the average, at 9.4 percent.

Another study on teacher absenteeism was conducted last year, and the results will be released before the end of this year.

Responding to a questions by Julie Kilian, a Cope MP, Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga said: “Although the study was undertaken in 2009, it is believed that the rate of absence in 2011 is unlikely to differ markedly from the results reported here.”

Motshekga said that, based on the report’s recommendations, the department would focus on schools where absenteeism rates exceed 10 percent. These schools accounted for a third of schools that took part in the study.

The report, which used information from other studies and interviews with parents, teachers and school management teams (SMTs) among others, found that teacher absenteeism rates in schools were influenced mainly by the levels of income of the communities they were in.

“South Africa is a country of high income inequality – thus parts of the education system could be comparable to high-income countries and parts comparable to low-income countries.”

The report found that in both high- and low-income schools, teachers mostly took Mondays and Fridays off due to “illness”.

l The figures below, provided by the Department of Basic Education, provide a breakdown of the absenteeism percentage estimates for each province:

Eastern Cape 10.5, Free State 7.2, Gauteng 9.4, KwaZulu-Natal 10.3, Limpopo 8.8, Mpumalanga 8, Northern Cape 8.5, North West 8.9, Western Cape 8.2.