Delay in appeal for teacher who took 1 522 days of sick leave

2015-06-03 18:56


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Durban - Backlogs in the KwaZulu-Natal education department have resulted in disciplinary cases taking years to wind up, including one of a teacher accused of using a forged sick note in her attempts to eventually secure more than 1 500 days of sick leave.

This emerged from a written reply by KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, who admitted there was a severe backlog of appeals that had not been heard and that T Naicker - who refused to give her first name to News24 - had managed to take 1 522 sick days over 15 years.

Naicker, a teacher from Hopeville Primary School in Phoenix, Durban, was dismissed in September 2013 for allegedly forging a doctor’s certificate and not submitting leave forms.

However, her appeal against the outcome of the disciplinary hearing has yet to be heard. The amount of sick leave does not feature in any of the charges, except in relation to a sick note that was allegedly forged.

“The appeal was not heard. There is a severe backlog of cases not heard, including this one,” Nkonyeni said in her written response to questions posed by the Democratic Alliance’s KwaZulu-Natal legislative caucus member George Mari.

Naicker’s appeal should have been heard 90 days after the initial disciplinary hearing that ordered her dismissal.

Earned R519 420 while not teaching

Nkonyeni also confirmed that during the past 15 years of service, the teacher had taken 1 522 days of sick leave, earning R519 420 while not teaching.

According to Nkonyeni’s written response, the sick leave was granted for "chronic laryngitis - hoarseness of the voice”.

Nkonyeni said that all the sick leave pay would be recovered from Naicker if the appeal was dismissed - once it had been heard.

Naicker told News24 she was innocent of the allegations. She said that she had proof that she had submitted the required sick leave forms and that she had never forged the doctor’s signature.

She explained that she had had two operations on her vocal chords carried out by Dr Carlos Fernandes to “remove nodules” from her vocal chords.

It was following these procedures that she obtained the sick notes from the doctor and that she simply collected the note from the secretary.

“When he had finished treating me, the secretary handed me the certificate and I had picked it up and submitted it to school.

"So I had no idea that his secretary signed on behalf of the doctor. So it was not like I took the certificate and signed it or did something to it.

"He just asked me to collect it from the secretary. That was his procedure at that time. I was not aware of what was going on.”

She said the certificate dates from 2006 and that Fernandes had left the country and could not be located.

However, News24 managed to contact him where he currently works in the United Arab Emirates.

'If it’s not my signature on it, it’s a forgery'

Fernandes said that it was never his policy to allow anyone to sign certificates on his behalf.

“If it’s not my signature on it, it’s a forgery. There is no way I would let anyone else sign my certificates. Like a prescription, it’s a legal document.”

He said he had a “vague recollection” of Naicker and could not comment on her condition. He pointed out that when he had his practice in Durban, he would see 20 to 30 patients a day.

Naicker said that her voice would rapidly deteriorate during the day so that at the end of the day she would be unable to be heard. She questioned why the sick note from 2006 was only raised as an issue in 2013.

Mari pointed out that on aggregate the teacher had taken more than 100 days of sick leave a year.

“Most years have an average of around 200 school days – if an educator is absent for half of those days for 15 years, there is a generation of learners who have been impacted negatively,” he said.

Read more on:    durban  |  fraud  |  education

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