Sick, suspended and absent DoE officials rack up more than 6 000 days off

Democratic Alliance media statement by  Mbali Ntuli, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

 

Sick, suspended and absent DoE officials rack up more than 6 000 days off

 

The KwaZulu-Natal Education department is facing yet another internal crisis with officials and teachers racking up a total of 6 257 days off as a result of suspension, sick leave and absenteeism without leave.

The information was obtained from a parliamentary reply to a DA question posed to provincial Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane, and covers the period November 2014 to November 2016.

According to the Department of Education (DoE):

  • 33 officials were on precautionary suspension, costing the department more than R9million in salaries;
  • A staggering 20 cases relate to alleged sexual relationships with a learner and sexual harassment, assault and molestation;
  • Other reasons for precautionary suspension include alleged gross insubordination, corporal punishment, financial mismanagement, physical altercations and the unauthorised selling of a state vehicle;
  • A further 59 officials were on temporary long leave and three on short temporary incapacity leave, with another 41 officials registered as absent without leave.

The reply also revealed that:

  • 62 individuals had been on sick or temporary incapacity leave at a cost of R5.3million to the department;
  • One official had been on leave for 513 days, another for 343 days and yet another for 203 days;
  • Fifteen cited “Diseases of the musculoskeletal and connective tissues” as the reason for their ongoing absence from work; while 14 said they were suffering from “Neurological” problems.  Eleven were absent as a result of “Mental and behavioural disorders”
  • Other reasons given include diseases of the digestive system, eyes and adnexa, genitourinary system, endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases, external causes of morbidity and mortality, infectious and parasitic diseases and Neoplasms.

The DA is extremely concerned by some of these figures.  They bring into question the commitment of both educators and the department to provide quality education to our province’s children.

The impact of so many officials and teachers not being in their offices or classrooms is immense.  Sadly, it is felt most by the learners, especially when so many are already having to deal with overcrowded classrooms.

In the case of extended leave, these officials need to be managed in a different way.  The department is not a charity organisation.  It has work to do – critical and important work – on behalf of the young people of our province.

KZN’s cash-strapped education department can ill-afford to spend R14million absent teachers and there are numerous ways in which this money could have been spent. This includes:

*        Upskilling teachers – an increasingly urgent matter that the DA has raised numerous times;

*        Additional funding towards the province’s struggling learner transport programme, ultimately saving young lives; and

*        Improving infrastructure at the many dilapidated KZN schools.

Last year the DoE told the province’s Education portfolio committee that the matter of official leave was in hand and that it was largely under control. The contents of this parliamentary reply indicate clearly that this is not the case.

Tomorrow, when the portfolio committee meets, the DA will use the opportunity to ascertain the true status of the department’s leave situation in KZN.

We will no longer tolerate half-truths while the province’s learners suffer.

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