Schools go to court over lower teacher allocations

2012-01-20 00:00

A DROP in enrolment figures at four KZN schools this year was blamed by the Education Department for the cut in the number of teachers allocated to them.

Nkosinathi Ngcobo, general manager, human resources management for the department, was replying to an application for an interdict brought in the high court by Pietermaritzburg schools Gert Maritz and Gelofte Primary, as well as Dundee and Scottburgh high schools. The case has been postponed to February 2.

The four schools approached the high court in December in a bid to interdict the department from implementing the proposed teacher cuts, pending an application to review the allocation of posts for 2012.

The four schools complained that they were only effectively informed about the number of posts allocated to them on December 8, the second to last day of the school year. They alleged that in terms of Section 58 C of the SA Schools Act the department was duty-bound to announce the numbers by no later than September 30 last year.

Its failure to do so had “catastrophic consequences” for them, said Gideon van Wyk, chairperson of the Gert Maritz governing body.

Van Wyk said Gert Maritz has been allocated six fewer teaching posts than last year, but because one teacher had resigned and another was going on pension, the school was effectively losing four teachers this year.

However, the financial consequences were huge. The court papers said Gelofte Primary and Dundee High lost one teacher post each this year, and Scottburgh High, two posts.

Van Wyk said each of the schools had finalised their budgets for 2012 in October and November, based on the “reasonable” assumption that they had been allocated the same number of teacher posts as last year.

He said the late announcement left schools with insufficient time to revise their budgets. If the schools could not afford to employ additional governing body-paid teachers, they face a number of practical problems. Class sizes could increase from 30 to 40 and 55 per class in affected grades, affecting the quality of learning and causing overcrowding.

Ngcobo said a replying affidavit Section 58 C of the SA Schools Act is “not the principal and exclusive” piece of legislation applicable to allocation of teacher posts in KZN.

He maintained Regulation R1676 (promulgated in 1998) deals “exclusively” with the placement of teacher posts at schools and made it clear that September 30 was “not an inflexible date”.

Ngcobo said enrolment figures at Gert Maritz dropped from 425 in 2010 to 310 last year.

Gelofte’s enrolment dropped from 702 in 2010 to 653 last year, at Dundee from 714 to 704 and at Scottburgh from 561 to 535.

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