Another teacher crisis awaits schools

EASTERN Cape schools will get off to a rocky start next year as another teacher crisis looms, with growing fears of a province-wide strike.

This comes as provincial unions contest next year’s teacher post allocation.

The department met their September 30 post declaration deadline this year for the first time in more than a decade, but the validity of the process is still under union scrutiny.

There are also claims that the department, which will cut nearly 4 000 teaching posts for next year, is aware that the allocated teacher basket is insufficient.

This all forms part of a court case against the department brought by the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), the SA Onderwysunie and the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools in protest against the mass axing.

The latest legal challenge comes as the department secured yet another extension – from November 2 to December 20 – to fill all vacant teaching posts.

The extension was granted after the department missed all its staggered deadlines to comply with a Grahamstown High Court order in July.

The legal action by the unions has raised fears of instability among school leaders and parents, who were represented by the Legal Resources Centre in taking the department to court to fill more than 6 000 substantive vacant posts.

And others fear a repeat of the start of last year’s academic year, where teachers were on a monthlong go-slow in protest against the axing of more than 4 000 temporary teachers.

Since the July Grahamstown High Court order to fill the vacant posts, the beleaguered department has filled 4 763.

The unions’ challenge is to be heard in the Bhisho High Court on December 7, just two weeks before the department’s extended deadline to fill all posts.

And while the department is cutting 3 932 teaching posts, a bulletin issued last month called for applications for 3 650 posts.

It is believed the advertisements were placed to adhere to the court requirements. However, it is unlikely the posts will materialise next year due to the cut in the post allocation for 2013.

Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the advertised posts were based on this year’s post establishment and some would be withdrawn when the new post allocations were implemented next year.

“The reality is that we had to issue the bulletin as per the court order, but it clashes with the 2013 posts,” he said. “We will thus match the two allocations against each other and some posts will have to be withdrawn.”

Sadtu provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said the department’s “annual termination of teachers’ posts” was a slap in the face of quality education in the province.

“Do they not see that this is going to lead to a lot of pupils being without teachers next year?

“We really do not want to get to that point [of striking] but [that may be the only option] if nobody comes to the rescue of those teachers being axed,” Ndongeni said.

Naptosa chief executive Peter Duminy said although the department had consulted unions during the process it had not been “meaningful”.

“In essence, we are disputing the number of posts and how they were derived,” he said.

“Also, while posts were declared on September 30, schools were only told how many teachers they would be getting in midOctober, which will have an effect on their budgeting usually done in September.”

Principals have also expressed fear of a volatile start to the year.

A principal at a former Model C school said the department was “once again confusing us” with the issue of teacher appointments.

“I’m quite scared for next year with regard to teachers,” he said.

“I don’t know what game they are playing by dangling over 3 600 posts in our faces with the recent bulletin. Teachers have applied and I’m almost sure nothing will come of their applications.”

Motherwell’s Mfesane High School principal, Chris Maneli, said the department should not just provide teachers based on numbers but on “needs and the stream”.

The school is due to have two of its teachers redeployed to another school.

“They don’t look at the teacher-pupil ratio, which has a direct effect on results,” he said.

“We are currently at 30 pupils to a teacher and that may go up to at least 32 next year. And, in [other township] schools that may even go up to the 40s,” Maneli said.

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