New plan unveiled to cut education costs

By Barbara Hollands

THE Eastern Cape Education Department on September 28 moved to allay widespread fears that thousands of teaching posts would be cut next year, saying the department would instead slash its spending by reducing wastage on “double-parked” teachers, curtailing lengthy sick leave and rationalising small schools that were not viable.

Announcing the province’s post positioning status for next year, MEC Mandla Makupula said no  permanent teaching posts were in danger.

He said the department would face a shortfall of R800-million for next year’s teachers’ posts budget – not the R3.4-billion projected by the DA.

To offset this, temporary teachers’ contracts, which are due to expire at the end of this year, would not be renewed, bringing posts for 2013 to 60 820 from the current 64 752.

However, he said an effort would be made to ensure temporary teachers with “scarce skills”, including maths, science and accounting, would be re-absorbed next year.

Makupula said the budget for the 2013 post basket was R17,9-billion, leaving the department with a shortfall of R800-million – not the massive R3.4-billion projected by the DA.  He said the decision to incur this shortfall rather than retrench teachers had been made in the interests of being “a caring government”.

The MEC said the strategic factors for establishing the 60 820 posts included leaner numbers (which have dropped by 2%), curriculum needs and a budget which has been cut by 1% for 2013.

Acting superintendent- general Mthunywa Ngonzo said the department was rolling out a plan for the movement of teachers into vacant posts “so then we will not be paying two teachers in one post”.

“There is also a high level of sickness among the educators so we will have a process of “ill-health management” so we don’t have one off sick and another standing in for him. Then the R800-million will be reduced in a short time and we can fill vacant posts.”

Makupula acknowledged the difficulties regarding reassigning excess teachers to schools with vacancies, saying teachers resisted moving from cities to rural areas “beyond the Kei”.

However, R130-million had been set aside for attracting teachers to rural areas.

“Teachers say ‘we’ve got rights’ and that we are taking them from Port Elizabeth to Lusikisiki. They say: ‘You are breaking up my family, I will not go’. They are taking me to court or toyi-toying.

“But at the same time a temporary teacher has to be in Lusikisiki and that is not budgeted for so we are paying two salaries for one post. It won’t be an easy battle making people move, but as they claim their rights, children are suffering.”

The post provisioning decision was reached following discussions with the department, Sadtu, the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa, the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysunie and school governing bodies. Makupula said there had been five consultation meetings since August 23 with these bodies.

The announcement follows after newspaper headlines announced that more than 11 000 teachers were in danger of losing their jobs next year due to a R3.4-billion shortfall for funding  the existing 64 752 posts.

This claim had been made by the DA’s provincial education spokesman  and portfolio committee member Edmund van Vuuren and was based on information he said was presented to the education portfolio committee by Ngonzo.

“The DA has quoted numbers of [more than] 11 000 teachers retrenched and that the department will have a shortfall of R3.4-billion, but we say that was news to us. We dispute we made those claims,” said Ngonzo.

This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, September 29, 2012.

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