Education dept won’t recruit additional teachers ahead of school reopening, says DA

Lena Thorup, a first-grade teacher, with her class. Teachers aim to do as much teaching as possible outdoors.

The party called on the department to ensure that more teachers are available in schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Department of basic education will reportedly not recruit additional teachers to schools to assist in teaching split classrooms or substituting for teachers with comorbidities as other grades expected to return to school on 6 July 2020.

According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the teachers will also not be paid overtime for the increased workload resulting from split classrooms and absent colleagues.

The DA said it sought answers from Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in a parliamentary question on the plans her department has in place to ensure that there are enough teachers to teach all the split classrooms of the different grades.

DA MP Nomsa Marchesi said in a statement: “This is in light of increased Covid-19 health protocols and the expected absence of teachers with comorbidities and the Minister’s answer was that there are no such plans. We heard last week how this department’s budget has been severely cut and funds transferred to other departments such as the army and police. This is no doubt one of the results of this cut.”

Marchesi noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had placed additional pressures on schools and teachers.

“With more learners expected to be phased in to schools in July and August, there is going to be an increased demand for social distancing that will result in more classrooms being split.

“This will no doubt require more time for teaching due to the alternate times, days, or weeks of attendance. In addition to this, there will be an increase in the absence of teachers with comorbidities,” she said.

She further said the DA called on Motshekga to provide clear directives on plans to fill the gap that might be left by teachers with comorbidities, who were at a higher risk of complications if they contract Covid-19 and might be required to self-isolate.

“The department, therefore, has a responsibility to ensure that more teachers are available in schools, to avoid causing any further burden on the teachers who are able to teach.

“The funds that were transferred to departments should have instead been reallocated for additional salaries of teachers or other educational needs. The department is shortsighted in its planning, and National Treasury should be making a budget allocation for such gaps,” she added.

775 schools have been affected by Covid-19 since Grade 7 and Grade 12 were allowed to continue with the academic calendar on 8 June, the education department on Saturday.

The department said in a statement that 523 learners and 1,169 teachers had tested positive for the virus.

The department also urged school principals to ensure that all the health protocols at the schools were strictly followed ahead of the reopening.

“Principals must take measures to ensure that learners and employees are screened when the schools reopen using the department of health Covid-19 procedure and questionnaire. Learners and employees should report additional symptoms including body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness.”

The department further said principals needed to ensure that learners and employees were informed, trained and instructed as to the correct use of cloth masks.

“They must also ensure that a risk assessment is conducted to identify categories of employees requiring personal protective equipment (PPE). Those employees should be provided with the accredited PPE in accordance with department of health guidelines.”

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