Thousands of schools in the Eastern Cape are without teachers, with some of the posts only likely to be filled next year.
This was revealed by Education MEC Fundile Gade in a reply to a parliamentary question from Yusuf Cassim, the DA’s education spokesperson in the province.
Gade also revealed that a staggering 86% of the posts had been vacant for more than three months. The MEC also said the posts were only likely to be filled next year, if budget was available.
A total of 2 348 schools in the province had vacant teaching posts. Out of these, 726 needed principals, 296 were without deputy principals and 797 had no heads of department. At least 1 203 schools needed level 1 teachers, Gade said.
As if that were not enough, the MEC also revealed that a total of 1 765 schools had no support staff. The schools with the highest number of vacant posts were in the Amathole East district with 359, the OR Tambo Coastal district with 289 and the Alfred Nzo West district, which had 228 schools with vacant posts. At least 3 721 of the posts had been vacant for more than three months.
In his reply, Gade said a total of 4 107 posts were vacant and there were 2 492 additional or excess teachers in the system, which left a net of 1 616 vacancies based on the 54 026 declared posts.
On the personnel and salaries management system, which is used for the administration of the public service payroll, 52 147 positions were filled.
Cassim said it was shocking that the department found itself in this situation, with the districts having the highest teacher vacancies.
“Even though there are 2 492 excess teachers employed by the department, these have not been placed and are unlikely to have the requisite qualifications for the vacancies that exist,” Cassim said, adding:
Cassim said pupils were already faced with a lack of proper classrooms, proper sanitation facilities and sufficient learning resources.
This situation was an injustice to the pupils, teachers and unemployed teacher graduates, and had a direct impact on the ability of pupils to succeed, he said.
“A capable government and state would prioritise the importance of the education of the future generations. Education is the foundation of opportunity and the department must prioritise filling these vacancies,” said Cassim.
Vuyiseka Mboxela, the provincial education spokesperson, said some of the posts became vacant as a result of retirements and deaths.
She was adamant that the vacancies did not mean that there were no teachers at all in classrooms, but that there were some teachers employed on a temporary basis. The department was now moving to employ some of them on a permanent basis.
Mboxela said that, between July 13 and August 13, the department had issued a bulletin for 903 principal and deputy principal positions. The process had been completed and the school governing bodies could start the interviews to fill those posts immediately.
Asked if these vacancies did not have a negative impact on teaching, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already robbed pupils of valuable schooling time, Mboxela said: “We wouldn’t really say there are adverse situations.
“As you would remember, last year we were among the top three provinces which produced 22 000 [matriculants who qualified for] bachelor’s [degrees] – same as in 2019.
“The fact that we also had a top pupil in the country coming from a poor school – Xolilizwe Senior Secondary School [in Dutywa] – indicates that we cannot give up now,” Mboxela said.