MORE than 6000 teachers in KwaZulu Natal have applied to stay at home due to the high risk for a serious COVID‑19 infection or concerns of potential transmission of the virus.
Inside Education has learnt that the teachers have remained absent and are on paid leave.
The majority of these teachers are deemed vulnerable to the novel COVID-19 due to their age and co-morbidities.
This emerged during a response by the department of education to questions by the Democratic Alliance in the KZN provincial legislature.
“The DA is extremely concerned by the numbers reflected in the MEC reply, which do not even begin to include the number of teachers who may be sick or who are on incapacity and maternity leave. According to the reply, there are currently; 5 970 educators who have applied for concessions, 284 who are over the age of 60 and with no-comorbidities who have applied for concessions and 1 400 teachers who are working from home on lesson preparation and assessment development and who are being monitored by their respective principals,” said Dr. Imraan Keeka, MPL and party spokesperson on the education portfolio.
According to the reply, Pinetown and Umlazi districts are worst affected, with teacher shortages of 1 242 and 1 197 respectively.
So severe is the situation confronting the province such that the department has requested national treasury to assist its effort to create 4000 new posts in order to accommodate the shortfall.
“The current situation within DOE does not bode well for our learners. Our grade 12s have experienced a particularly difficult year and it is imperative that DOE fulfils its side of the bargain. There can be no substitute for the imperative. There can be no substitute for both educators and learners being in classrooms,” added Keeka.
However, provincial education spokesperson, Kwazi Mthethwa said there was no need to panic, insisting that substitute teacher post had already been advertised.
“We are giving the issue off filling the vacancies the urgency it deserves. To this effect, the department has already issued a circular to invite applications for various substitute positions,” Mthethwa told Inside Education on Tuesday.
While Grade 7 and Grade 12 cohort of pupils had already been phased in back to the system, other grades were phased in this week.
Kwazi Mshengu, KZN MEC for education while addressing media this week on the latest developments on the state of readiness said schools will operate on a 50% capacity and that the pupils would be divided into groups. This according to Mshengu, would ensure that social distancing is effectively implemented.
“We have agreed on a gradual introduction of leaners. For instance, on Tuesday, we welcomed a portion of Grade R, Grade 6, Grade 10 and 11. The other groups will be slowly phased in as the week progresses up until Friday,” said Mshengu.
Meanwhile, teacher unions have raised their reservations on the state of readiness. According to a latest survey conducted by jointly by the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Professional Educators Union (PEU), South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the National Teachers Union, only 12% of schools in the province has been supplied with sufficient face masks.
The survey also revealed that a high number of teachers were suffering from anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion because of the workload.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)