The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education says the first school term will begin on Wednesday, despite the province-wide devastation caused by the recent floods.
Education MEC Mbali Frazer said the recent storms and floods caused severe damage to 59 schools in nine of the 12 provincial districts, but the department has responded with interim measures, including mobile classrooms and mobile accommodation facilities, to keep schools open.
“The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal is happy to report that there is a 100% delivery of learner and teacher support material (LTSM) in all the schools in the province,” said Frazer, adding that the department had allocated funds to Section 21 schools for the purchase of textbooks and stationery for the 2024 academic year.”
“Schools were requested to give an indication of prospective order value, and funds were prioritised in terms of the inputs,” she said.
In terms of unfilled positions, the department advertised over 3,000 teacher vacancies in September last year due to attrition, which included retirements, resignations, deaths, and other reasons.
She said the department is confident this will enable schools to be properly staffed when the 2024 school year starts.
“The posts’ establishments were released to all the schools in the province towards the end of 2023. Based on this, schools should accordingly be able to timely identify vacancies if any and, where necessary, follow due processes for filling those in line with prescribed procedures,” said Frazer.
She also mentioned that there were vacancies for school principals, deputy principals, and department heads.
One of the most important requirements for a smooth start to the academic year is the transfer of basic allocation payments to schools.
Frazer said a portion of basic allocations was paid to schools on Tuesday for operational requirements.
“The ultimate responsibility of the department is to ensure the provision of an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning,” added Frazer.
While the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal is confident that schools will have a smooth reopening, unions disagree.
Teacher unions Sadtu (South African Democratic Teachers Union) and Naptosa (National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa) challenged Frazer’s claims regarding the basic allocations, saying only a fraction of the required amounts were paid on Tuesday.
Naptosa CEO in KwaZulu-Natal, Thirona Moodley, said the 2024 school year begins with much uncertainty as the organisation has been inundated with complaints from frustrated school principals.
She said this will make teaching and learning impossible on the first day, as some schools received a fraction of what’s due to them on Tuesday.
“School principals have bitterly complained about using their personal funds to keep their schools running. This is not only unacceptable; it is unfair and irregular,” said Moodley.
She said Naptosa is “fed up” with a department that fails to fulfil its constitutional responsibility to provide quality basic education to all.
“School principals are at the receiving end of a dysfunctional department, and learners are innocent victims. The staffing of schools is a cause for concern. The department will not renew some temporary educator contracts. Moreover, the process for establishing school staff for 2024 is yet to be completed or even commence in some schools.”
Moodley added that some schools in the province have been severely damaged as a result of the extreme weather conditions experienced during the holidays.
Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said some schools in the province will sadly be opening unprepared in 2024 as only half their school allocation monies have been paid.