Thousands of KwaZulu-Natal teachers remain absent from schools as a result of having been deemed vulnerable during the current health pandemic, due to age and comorbidities.
The Department of Education is now looking at creating 4 000 posts, at a cost of R974 million, over six months.
This was revealed in a written reply to parliamentary questions posed by the DA recently.
According to the department, 5 970 teachers have applied for concessions; 284 employees over the age of 60 and with a number of comorbidities have applied for concessions; and 1 400 teachers are working from home on lesson preparation and assessment development.
“The situation is currently under control. Teachers with the requisite qualifications and competency are taking on the teaching loads of those who are at home. In instances where this is not possible, the school may request the appointment of a substitute teacher,” said Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu in his reply.
DA spokesperson on education Dr Imran Keeka said this was not a long-term solution.
“It seems that the assurances he (the MEC) and his officials gave may possibly be viewed as misleading. The current situation within the department does not bode well for our pupils. Our Grade 12s have experienced a difficult year and it is imperative that the department fulfils its side of the bargain.”
Keeka said there could be no substitute for teachers and pupils being in classrooms. He urged the MEC and the provincial Treasury to fast-track the process of ensuring qualified substitute teachers are brought in.
“The situation is so bad that the department has had to approach the Treasury to request funding for the creation of 4 000 new posts. This as the department’s current pool of 2020 substitute teachers is labelled as insufficient by the MEC.
“According to the reply, the uMlazi and Pinetown districts are worst affected, with teacher shortages of 1 242 and 1 197 respectively,” he said.
Provincial Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the department was not in crisis.
“We have released a circular that explains the process to get teachers to assist where there are comorbidities. We can’t go against the advice of medical practitioners when people present symptoms of sickness.
“How we are dealing with the situation is an open process, bearing in mind that it is between the employer and employee,” Mthethwa said.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, said the matter was discussed with the national department.
“The way forward is for the employer not to waste any more time and appoint teachers immediately,” Caluza said.