Education authorities in the Eastern Cape are once again under fire for failing to deal effectively with problems besetting schooling.
With the first term of the year already at an end, around 9 000 learners have had their schooling severely disrupted as the province remains short of as many as 3 000 teachers.
Some 30 schools in Umtata alone are affected by teacher shortages, while in Port Elizabeth parents of frustrated children who have been left idle since the beginning of the year have threatened to embark on public protests against the department’s failure to fill vacant posts. Says one parent, ‘It’s very unfair to the children. The Minister of Education says it’s their right to have an education but it seems like it’s a privilege for only a few.”
Provincial education MEC Nomsa Jajula has so far skirted the issue, moving the goal posts each time in what concerned educationalists say is a ‘time-playing” exercise. A decision was supposed to be made on March 6 following the announcement of the provincial budget. However, the day came and went without a word from Jajula.
With further pressure from teacher unions and political parties, the education department announced late last month that it now needed until the first week of April before it could make an informed decision on the situation.
It intended to use this time to conduct another headcount of teachers in the province – barely a year after a similar exercise was conducted by axed former education MEC, Stone Sizani.
Education department representative Danie Breytenbach attributes the current dilemma facing the department to Sizani’s alleged failure to declare annually to the government the number of posts held by the education department – despite being legally obliged to do so. The last time Sizani had done so was in 1998.
The education department says it is therefore not currently in a financial position to afford any more teachers than the 65 712 on its payroll.
Breytenbach says the department intended adopting the Morkel model to iron out any teacher shortage problems. This would mean that schools deemed to have teachers in excess would lose them to those schools with too few teachers.
Following a weekend indaba on the issue, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has indicated its intention to declare a dispute and is seeking legal opinion on the matter to prevent the education department ‘from getting off the hook”.
Sadtu’s provincial secretary Mxolisi Dimaza says strike action was being considered as a last resort, should all other legal options fail to resolve the issue.
The South African Teachers Union (Eastern Cape) chairman Streis Wahl has called for the urgent lifting of the moratorium on the appointment of teachers, which has been in effect since late last year, if the matter is to be effectively resolved.
Meantime, learners like Donly Snayers have this to say: ‘I want to learn and please give us teachers. I don’t want to be left behind in life.”