The Eastern Cape Department of Education is putting itself at risk of court action if it does not urgently review its staff shortfalls at schools in the province, writes Lee-Anne Butler.
Yesterday, provincial education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gade warned education officials that the allocation of teaching and non-teaching staff at schools should be done according to the needs of the schools and not based on the department’s budget.
This came after Gade was informed that Sunshine School for Specialised Education had received only four non-teaching staff members this year despite the school’s qualifying for 79 staff members.
The school’s principal said it desperately needed 13 more non-teaching staff members, just to function properly.
Addressing officials and the school’s staff, Gade said: “We run the risk of being taken to court if this continues.
“We must find a way in this matter.”
He and the rest of the education portfolio committee and officials from the department’s district office conducted an oversight visit to Uitenhage High School and Sunshine School for Specialised Education in Uitenhage. The visit was a follow-up to school visits conducted in January to assess the readiness of schools across the province.
Various challenges and issues were highlighted in January and Gade and the rest of the committee questioned whether these challenges had been resolved.
During the visit to Sunshine, district office acting chief education specialist Andile Hopa said that 42 non-teaching staff had been budgeted for the district and the school had received two cleaners and two teachers’ aides.
But principal Candace Kivedo said the school qualified for 79 non-teaching staff members as it catered for pupils with severe learning disabilities.
She said despite the four posts received, the school desperately needed an additional four teacher aides, two food aides, two drivers, four cleaners and a security person.
Gade said the department’s main challenge was that it addressed staffing backlogs based on its budget per district, and not based on the needs of the schools.
“If you distribute 42 [staff members] in this district and the need is 300 you will never solve this backlog,” Gade said.
The committee heard that out of a provincial backlog of 450 non-teaching staff members for special schools, 59 additional posts would be advertised.
At Uitenhage High School, Gade said he had seen significant improvement as the school had filled seven of its 12 vacancies since January.
“However, I am disappointed to hear that there are still five post level 1 vacancies.
“You cannot have five vacancies at a single school, the consequences are dire and compromises the learners,” he said.
He said this challenge would be followed up in Bhisho.
Principal Mark Williams said the school was paying five SGB-appointed teachers to fill the gap but it was crippling them financially.
Attempts to obtain comment from provincial spokesman Malibongwe Mtima were unsuccessful.