Plea for more teachers

Floreat Primary School staff and parents held a placard protest last week.

Teachers and parents took to the streets last week to express their frustration at the lack of teachers at some schools.

Three weeks into the school term, schools were still waiting for teachers’ posts to be filled by the Western Cape Education Department (WECD). Classes that had no teachers were supervised by parents and pupils who didn’t have a teacher couldn’t start with their academic programme, leading to them lagging behind in their work.

One such school was Floreat Primary School in Steenberg where a Grade 6 class was without a teacher who is supposed to teach English, Afrikaans and geography.

On Thursday February 6, staff and parents stood along Joe Marks Boulevard and held a placard demonstration to show their dismay at the situation.

Parent Kauthar Jackson’s twins are in Grade 6 and one of them is in the class without a teacher.

“Iwasextremelyconcerned because we were going in for the fourth week of the school term without a teacher. They are far behind in their school work and their books were empty,” she said.

“We heard that there was no money for teachers but this cannot be tolerated. They say the children are our future but the department is playing with our children’s future by not giving us enough teachers,” Ms Jackson added.

Principal Noel Isaacs said the school had applied for additional teachers last year. “The department said the budget was cut and we were told that they are prioritising the basket of teachers; that they have the discretion to allocate to areas where there is a greater need,” said Mr Isaacs.

He added that children were falling behind with their work and were unable to start with assessments along with the rest of the school because they hadn’t been part of a class but were given worksheets from other teachers.

“This is the first time something like this has happened at our school. It is a violation of the children’s constitutional rights,” he said.

Lotus High School principal, Benjamin Pietersen, said for about three weeks the school had been one teacher short. He said this particular class did not receive tuition and was only supervised and said at the time it had impacted the functioning of the school.

Heathfield High School has, however, had this problem for a couple of years. Last year the school had to have several fund-raisers because the school employed five school governing body (SGB) teachers – who were supposed to be paid with school fees that are paid to the school.

Principal Wesley Nuemann said school fees were not coming. “After an analysis about 55% of the school parents or guardians are unemployed or depending on a grant, making it difficult for them to pay. This is why we are depending on fund-raisers to help, but those parents or guardians, mostly grandparents who look after their children, are not even able to help, with the fund-raisers. They can’t even afford to attend the fund-raisers to support the school. This puts immense pressure on the entire school fraternity,” he said.

He asked school alumni and the wider community to support the school’s fund-raisers.

“We appreciate all the support and encourage people to please support us with our events in order for us to employ more SGB teachers,” said Mr Neumann.

Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the WCED, said schools were made aware of the number of teaching posts that will be allocated to them for the next year based on existing pupil numbers. “If a school has increased significantly in learner numbers, they are to apply to the department for additional posts,” she said.

The WCED then conducts a 10-day snap survey where schools are to submit, on the tenth school day, the number of pupils registered on the system and are attending the school and the list of educators – giving an accurate reflection of the pupil enrolment and number of staff as at the tenth school day.

“This information is extremely important to us as it allows us to determine where there is growth and which schools require additional teacher allocations based on demand.”

The WCED keeps back a number of teaching posts for this purpose.

The department finalised the analysis of the data and the post allocation information was made available to the schools this week.

Mr Pietersen and Mr Isaacs confirmed posts were allocated to the schools.

“We are now in a position to function as we should. The WCED has responded to our request for additional teachers and we are now in the process of trying to find a suitable candidate to fill the post,” said Mr Pietersen.

Ms Hammond added that the total number of pupils in the Western Cape had increased by over 130 000 over the past five years, without a corresponding increase in budget to build extra schools, hire more teachers, or provide additional educational re-
sources.

“The current budget is incredibly strained, making it ex-
tremely hard to manage the high demand for school places, tea-
chers and infrastructure,” she
said.

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