Tensions mount in dispute over post provisioning Jul 19, 2002 Tensions mount in dispute over post provisioning

According to provincial secretary for the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), Ndaba Gcwabaza, it was agreed with the provincial Department of Education and Culture on April 19 this year that 2 133 posts would be advertised on the open vacancy list. The open vacancy list is a list for newly qualified educators.

However, Gcwabaza says that the department is now ‘refusing to honor that agreement and they closed those posts”.
He says that these are existing posts that do not require new funding and that have become available due to resignations, retirements, deaths and promotions.

Mandla Msibi, the department’s representative, says, ‘It’s true that we have 2 133 vacancies — but we have to protect our permanent educators. How can we fill those posts when we have surplus teachers?”

But as Gcwabaza points out, there is an immediate need for additional teachers in the system: ‘As a result of the relaxation of admission requirements for Grade 1 learners, close to 40 000 six-year olds enrolled at the beginning of the year at schools in KwaZulu Natal.”

Gcwabaza says the department’s refusal to employ new educators translates into a minimum shortage of 1 000 educators for the new Grade 1s. The net result, says Gcwabaza, is that ‘we have a department that refuses to employ close to 3 200 new educators, especially for those 40 000 six-year olds”.

Msibi says that the department is currently in negotiations with Sadtu over the Post Provisioning Norm and that the new teacher-to-learner ratio has gone up to 1:36,1. Says Msibi, ‘This is because of an increase in Grade 1 learners. We wanted to reduce it to 1:35. Also, because of finances, we are limited [in our ability to hire new teachers].”

Sadtu is not prepared to swallow these justifications and threatened strike action in a

memorandum sent to Premier Lionel Mtshali and the provincial education MEC, Gabriel Ndabandaba at the end of June. ‘Meet us in the boardroom [to resolve the teacher-to-learner ratio crisis], or meet us in the streets” is the challenge issued to the department.

Gcwabaza says that they are disappointed that the KwaZulu-Natal’s department of education had refused to hire new teachers and that they are ‘disappointed that the department of education had undermined labour relations in the provincial chamber”.

But Msibi does not believe that strike action will go ahead as threatened when schools reopen for the third quarter. He adds the assurance that ‘No permanent educator will lose their job. We will accommodate all the permanent educators - but the temporary teachers, maybe not.”

According to Gcwabaza, the reasons for the department’s refusal to hire new educators is two-fold. Firstly, ‘the department has never committed itself to improving the quality of education in this province. They have never committed themselves to ensuring that there is relief to schools where overcrowding remains the order of the day. Teacher’s are overloaded with overcrowded classrooms and too many subjects.”

Secondly, the department ‘is keen to keep a lot of money floating in their coffers.” If the department used the financial resources available to it instead of underspending, says Gcwabaza, they would be able to afford to employ new educators, build new buildings and renovate schools.

The dispute declared by Sadtu over the teacher-to-pupil ratio is especially relevant in light of allegations made by Sadtu that R700-million out of a total education budget of R7,8-billion in the 2000/2001 financial year cannot be accounted for.

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