Close to 1 170 teachers have died from Covid-19, with 159 of them succumbing to the virus since the beginning of this year.
This was revealed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga yesterday when she briefed the media on the state-of-readiness for the reopening of schools today.
KZN recorded the second highest number of fatalities with 196, behind the Eastern Cape at 533. The department had not finalised the data on the pupils affected but preliminary figures indicated that at least 4 937 had been infected in the eight provinces other than the Eastern Cape.
At least 15 068 teachers with comorbidities have applied not to return to school yet and these posts will be substituted with surplus educators and recruitment of new teachers.
On the demand for space, Motshekga said it was especially high in grades one and eight. She said there were still 16 117 pupils awaiting spaces in schools.
“The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met yesterday [Saturday] and the matter of school admission was identified as critical because the system cannot afford to see any learners being left behind. It was agreed that provinces would work with speed to place all the learners in the next week.”
The department’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, said provinces were under added pressure to enrol pupils who dropped out last year but now want to resume their studies.
Among those is KZN, where he said “those who dropped out will be admitted if they return to register in 2021. However, these learners will be registered in grades they were in, in 2020”.
On the issue of school fees, Motshekga said payment is mandatory at fee-paying schools and the governing bodies have the authority to ensure through legal means that parents pay.
“The liability of parents is determined through an affordability formula, which can be used to determine whether a parent can be exempted partially or fully from paying school fees.”
The minister said another issue that has raised serious concerns is the reports that some schools are charging parents registration deposits. She said some are charging the exorbitant amounts to pay staff bonuses.
Mweli spoke about the devastation caused by the vandalism of schools during the festive season. KZN recorded the highest number with 530 of the 1 724 schools that were vandalised nationally.
“The department aims to repair the vandalised schools through the district maintenance plan subject to budget availability during 2021/22 financial year,” said Mweli of the situation in KZN.