Dr GA Grootboom, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Spokesperson for Education
Teacher absenteeism is seen as a major threat to quality education, yet the Northern Cape Department of Education is slow to act or just simply ignores the problem. Hiding its head in the sand, however, will not make the problem go away.
According to the Education DG at national, Bobby Soobrayan, there is no target set to ensure that teachers are in classrooms leading our children. This is because the department has no baseline from which to work and because there is no means to measure performance. If there is no means to measure performance, how then does the department expect to reach its targets for learner performance?
It has been established that teacher absenteeism is a major contributor to the poor quality of education in disadvantaged schools. The National Planning Commission, in its diagnostic overview, revealed:
“Almost 20% of teachers are absent on Mondays and Fridays. Absentee rates increase to one-third at month end.”
“Teachers in African schools teach an average of 3.5 hours a day compared with about 6.5 hours a day in former white schools. This amounts to a difference of three years of schooling.”
In effect, this means that on any given school day, 1 in 10 teachers are not at work.
One has to wonder why no effort has been made by the Minister to tackle teacher absenteeism, particularly in disadvantaged schools. Could it be that, like President Zuma, Minister Motshekga is afraid of upsetting SADTU ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung? The Minister recently, at a SADTU conference, came out in support of the union, stating that it is doing ‘good work’ despite poor results.
Tackling teacher absenteeism would necessarily pit the Minister against one of the ANC’s key alliance partners. This is because the bulk of teachers who are routinely absent from the classroom are SADTU members. Calling them to account would be tantamount to a declaration of war. The fear of tackling this in the absence of strategies to curb education is evident in the Annual Performance Plan.
The talk about better education is a drive towards gutter education. We hope that the department manages to show educational leadership to make good on their aim to ensure that all children get quality education, especially in schools with known high absenteeism rates. The learners should be their priority, not a trade union that is willing to sacrifice our children’s future for its own narrow interests.