Radical Overhaul Needed for KZN’s Teacher Bursary System

Tom Stokes, MPP DA KZN Spokesperson on Education DESPITE the fact that there are presently some 14 000 unqualified teachers employed by KwaZulu-Natal’s education department – and that some 4 500 new teachers are required each year due to death and retirement – 284 out of 1 903 newly qualified teachers who applied for jobs at the start of the current academic year remain unplaced. Even more alarming is that 173 of these unplaced teachers are recipients of bursaries paid from taxpayer’s money. The figures form the basis of a report to members of the KZN Education portfolio committee last week which revealed statistics for applications, placement and non-placement for the different bursaries currently offered in the province; Bursary Applications Placed Unplaced Funza Lushaka 1 009 860 149 KZN Education 93 bursaries offered 69 24 Privately funded students 801 690 111 The Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme is a nationally run programme and KwaZulu-Natal merely identifies candidates, with finances handled at national level. For 2012/13, the Funza Lushaka scheme has been allocated R671.9 million. The KZN bursary funds come from a Ministerial Discretionary Fund and during 2012 the amount allocated was R25million. Further explanations offered by the department’s HOD last week point to a mismatch between the subjects offered by graduates and the subject needs in available vacancies. The HOD further elaborated that part of the problem is that bursary holders, once they attain a bursary to study scarce subjects like science and maths, change their course packages mid-stream to easier subjects not needed by the department. It is quite clear that the present bursary system as well as the education department’s HR division is due for a radical overhaul. The teacher bursary scheme costs the taxpayer millions annually and far more stringent conditions need to be placed on recipients in terms of course packages. The KZN bursary funds come from a Ministerial Discretionary Fund and during 2012 the amount allocated was R25million. The Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme is a nationally run programme and KwaZulu-Natal merely identifies candidates, with finances handled at national level. For 2012/13, the Funza Lushaka scheme has been allocated R671.9 million. In addition there should be far greater monitoring by the department on the progress of these students. It’s unacceptable that the HR department is unable to place every graduate by October of the previous year due to delayed exam results and that students are not given early warning of where they are likely to be posted. More worrying is the clear disjuncture between long term teacher needs and the totally inadequate teacher training capacity of our existing training facilities. The figure of 14 000 unqualified teachers masks an even greater problem in our schools, particularly in smaller rural schools, where teachers qualified in one subject are teaching in another and are sometimes teaching at a grade level for which they are not qualified. At present there is no way of knowing the extent of this problem as the department has no accurate figures of each schools staff qualifications against teaching needs. The Bantu education system of the past has created havoc in our schools, but the lack of urgent initiatives to rectify the situation is deplorable. It appears that too many promotion posts at district and circuit level have been filled by people unable or unwilling to change a system that they are comfortable in, and ruffle the feathers of those teachers presently employed who are inadequate for the job. Like turning the Titanic away from the iceberg in its path, the KwaZulu-Natal education department, steered by complacent managers and fueled by teacher union activism, seems unable to turn away from its current course of complacency and incompetence.

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