Absentee educators fingered

A recent head count undertaken by the Eastern Cape education department points to rampant truancy amongst its approximate 74 000 teachers.

On any given day in Eastern Cape schools, as many as 17 000 teachers are reported absent.

The estimated cost to the department amounts to a loss of

R5,3-million daily, adding up to about R1-billion a year.

Provincial education MEC Nomsa Jajula says the absenteeism was discovered when the education department, in collaboration with the office of the auditor-general, conducted a head count. This showed that absenteeism among teachers was around 23%.

‘The cost to pupils cannot be put in rand terms,” says Jajula.
‘There is a 98% correlation between teacher absenteeism and the [poor] matric pass rate.” She adds that the department is also investigating whether the 16 769 absent teachers are ‘ghosts, fictitious or real” employees.

The department has now established a detailed database of all absent staff and a control unit is visiting the affected schools.

Jajula says she will also ensure that teachers who are persistently absent are replaced by educators willing to teach.

This disturbing information comes hot on the heels of a damning report of the provincial education department by the Interim Management Team (IMT). Appointed by President Thabo Mbeki and tasked with finding solutions to the chaotic administration be-devilling the Eastern Cape government, the IMT found that human resources planning is poor, with inconsistencies between actual personnel numbers, work stations, deployment and data captured on financial systems.

The education department is not even sure of the number of employees it has, reports the IMT.

Jajula was also reported as saying that schools were floundering with high absenteeism, huge salary backlogs, corruption, drug abuse and poor performances by learners.

Meanwhile, learning ground to a halt at some Port Elizabeth township schools last month when hundreds of teachers marched to the city’s Market Square to present their grievances to the education department on the teacher shortage crisis. The province remains short of as many as 3 000 educators.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union is demanding that more teachers be employed and that the moratorium on the appointment of temporary and substitute teachers be lifted.

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