Shock at absentee teachers

2013-02-12 00:00

THE vast majority of South African pupils are stuck in dysfunctional schools, often with their teachers absent.

Nicholas Spaull, a researcher in the economics department at the University of Stellenbosch, recently released a report, “Education in SA: A tale of two systems”, that reveals shocking figures of teacher absenteeism. South Africa has the worst absenteeism rate out of 14 African countries studied.

In 2010, Human Sciences Research Council researchers found that between 20 and 24 days’ schooling had been lost to absenteeism in 2008.

A recent study found that up to 60% of lessons were not taught in 58 North West schools, even where teachers were present.

Spaull said the proportion of teachers who had been absent for a whole month was extremely worrying.

In 2007, 73% of KZN grade six teachers who were involved in a study had been absent for a month.

The rate in the Eastern Cape was 62%, 48% in Limpopo, and 22% in the Western Cape.

“Most primary schools [in South Africa] are far weaker than schools in poorer African countries. Children might be at school, but they are not learning what they should.”

Spaull said progress had been made in access to education, but there were still glaring inequalities.

In the poorest 80% of schools, just one percent of grade eights go on to obtain C grades (60%) for matric science and maths.

About 10 times more pupils reach this standard at the 20% richest schools.

Just one percent of black matriculants in 2007 earned the marks to get into science and maths degree courses, compared to 15% of whites.

Given that fewer than half the black pupils that enter grade one obtain a matric, that means that fewer than one out of 200 black children reach degree studies in science and maths.

It was against this backdrop that educationists and politicians last week expressed support for teaching to be declared an essential service, in which striking is illegal.

However, independent expert Dr Mauvia Gallie said teachers did not get the support they needed to do their jobs properly, so forbidding them to strike would not work.

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union will today protest at the national offices of the Basic Education Department on employment issues, including equality of pay, rural allowances for qualified teachers and the permanent appointment of temporary teachers.

They are also calling for director-general Bobby Soobrayan to be fired, saying he had not provided adequate leadership.

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