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Schools’ struggle with vacancies

The Department of Education is facing a crisis with reports streaming in about schools in the province urgently needing vacant posts to be filled.
Principals and school governing bodies (SGB) are struggling to make sense of the department’s decision to not to fill vacancies while other schools are struggling to have temporary educators appointed permanently.
Naledzani Rasila, Head of Communications of the Department of Education said: “No posts have been cut, but this is the year we are fighting to cancel as many vacant posts as possible.” He said excess teachers will be requested to move to needy schools after a snap survey to determine schools’ needs and the number of excess teachers.”
One of the affected schools has had five vacant posts cut and has already lost 13 educators’ posts in three years’ time. Yet the school’s learner/educator ratio is above the Department of Basic Education’s ideal of a 30:1 ratio.
Schools were reportedly only informed about the cut in vacancies late in November last year, while it is legally determined that they should have been informed of such cuts in September this year. According to one of the principals, where five vacancies have been cut, should he have to fill the vacancies with SGB monies, it would cost the school some R1,1 million. “This would mean that each child paying school fees would have to pay R104 per month more,” he said. This school had already done its strategic planning for 2016 and signed contracts with teachers by the time it was informed about the cuts in vacancies.
The principal of one of the province’s top performing secondary schools in the province said he did not know how the department could expect them to keep on producing top results while cutting posts. It has been proved by research that the learner-to-educator ratio contributes directly to the quality of schooling offered. The national learner/teacher ratio (LER), accepted in 2005 and within international standards, was 40:1 for ordinary primary schools and 35:1 for ordinary secondary schools and later has been set at an ideal of 30:1. One of the principals suggested that, with the phasing in of Grade R, teacher vacancies were cut to make provision for the appointment of Grade R teachers. Another suggested that some vacancies should be retained and Funza Lushaka bursary students should be appointed, as this will also assist by adding younger teachers to the pool of teachers who are becoming older all the time. Schools also complained about temporary teachers not being appointed permanently, leading to uncertainty about vacancies both by schools and teachers. Teachers who have resigned from positions a long time ago, even in subjects where there is a scarcity, are not being re-appointed by the department.
A local school with a shortage of eight teachers needs five teachers with immediate effect as a result of a growth in learners experienced by the school. The school’s LER is way above 40:1, with some classes having more than 50 learners per teacher. Polokwane Observer last week reported on a school with seven teachers, which had sixteen vacancies.
Rasila said District Offices have been requested to recruit Mathematicss and Science teachers to schools offering these subjects and having vacancies.

Story: NELIE ERASMUS
>>nelie.observer@gmail.com




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