KZN facing education crisis as Covid-19 leaves almost 6 000 teachers absent from schools

18 Aug 2020 in Press Statements

A written parliamentary reply to questions posed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) has revealed that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is facing a serious education crisis. This as approximately 6 000 educators remain absent from schools as a result of having been deemed vulnerable during the current health pandemic due to age and comorbidities.
The situation is so bad that the province’s Department of Education (DoE) has had to approach Treasury as a matter of urgency 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.

The DA is extremely concerned by the numbers reflected in the MEC’s reply, which do not even begin to include the number of teachers who may be sick or who are on incapacity and maternity leave. According to the reply, the Umlazi and Pinetown districts are worst affected, with teacher shortages of 1 242 and 1 197 respectively.

The findings also come as teachers express their concerns that learners will not perform well at the end of the year. This as a result of insufficient exam preparation time, teacher shortages, a jam-packed timetable and numerous challenges when it comes to the teacher replacements. According to the reply, there are currently;

  • 5 970 educators who have applied for concessions;
  • 284 who are over the age of 60 and with no co-morbidities who have applied for concessions; and
  • 1 400 teachers who are working from home on lesson preparation and assessment development and who are being monitored by their respective principals.

The MEC, as part of his reply, stated that the situation is currently under control while only permitted grades are attending lessons and that educators with the requisite qualification and competency from within the relevant schools are taking on the teaching loads of those who are at home. Certainly, this is not a long-term solution and while approaching Treasury is a step in the right direction, the reality is that nothing happens quickly within KZN’s ANC-run provincial government.

Despite the MEC’s confirmation of an issue in terms of teacher numbers, the Department’s HOD, Dr Nzama, has continued to deny any problem at all, even going so far as to tell members of the province’s Education portfolio committee this on several occasions. Based on the contents of the reply, it seems that the assurances he and his officials gave may possibly be viewed as misleading and therefore contemptible. The DA will request that the HOD be held accountable before the committee on this matter.

The current situation within the DoE does not bode well for our learners. Our Grade 12s have experienced a particularly difficult year and it is imperative that the DoE fulfils its side of the bargain.  There can be no substitute for both educators and learners being in classrooms. The DA urges MEC Mshengu and the provincial Treasury to fast-track the process of ensuring that qualified substitute teachers are brought in. There is not another moment to waste.