Too many teachers absent

2010-03-12 00:00

ONE in eight teachers in KwaZulu-Natal is absent on any given day.

This startling statistic emerged from a report-back on school visits by legislature members at the beginning of the school year.

The visits were commissioned by Premier Zweli Mkhize to assess the challenges facing schools.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu tabled the report before the KZN Legislature this week.

DA education spokesman Tom Stokes said the findings mean that the province’s entire teaching corps takes leave every eight days or, put another way, teachers have the equivalent of 42 days’ sick leave in an 18-month cycle when they are in fact entitled to 12 days’ sick leave in that time.

“In his report, the MEC revealed that some 14,6% of state-paid teachers were absent on the first day of school this year, with absenteeism over the first three days averaging out at 13,7%,” said Stokes.

This is in stark contrast to teachers paid by school governing bodies, whose absentee rate was only 3,1%, Stokes said.

“If educators are only entitled to 12 days’ sick leave within an 18-month cycle, one assumes that the extra 30 days are being taken without permission and on full pay. Even more alarming is that if we assume that half of the teachers in our province stick to the 12 days permitted, the other half average 72 days off over 18 months, which is equal to 48 sick days a year.”

While Stokes said the report fails to clarify whether high absenteeism continues throughout the year, he said Mchunu’s comment that the above figure fits with findings in previous years does suggest this.

Another finding of the report is that teachers do not see their principals as the representatives of their employer.

“The conclusion drawn was that school governing body educators are closer to their employer than state-paid educators, who see their employer as far removed from their place of work and who do not see the principal as the representative of their employer,” said Mchunu.

The MEC said many principals also do not think they represent the employer.

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