Cape Town – The Western Cape Education Department needs more than R800 million to fill a backlog of 2 000 teacher posts accumulated over the past 10 years.
Responding to a written question in the provincial legislature this week, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said since 2012, the province had to create 4 596 teaching posts to meet the demand of an increasing number of pupils. But only a little over half of those posts were created.
“The WCED has not been in a position to increase the basket of posts sufficiently to cope with the increase in learner growth in the province for the past 10 years. The cumulative increase in the basket of posts from 2012 was 2 650 educator posts, while the actual need (learner growth/36 learners per class) is 4 696 educator posts. This is a projected shortfall of 2 046 educator posts,” she said in response.
Every year the department enters into a two-month long consultative process with labour and school governing bodies to go over how many new posts the department can afford to meet the growing demand. Since last year, no new posts were created until April to accommodate growing numbers of pupils.
Currently, the province has 33 865 teachers for nearly 1.1 million pupils, a figure that grew by 18 160 from the previous year.
Schäfer’s spokesperson, Kerry Mauchline, said the number of posts was purely determined by the budget.
“No posts were added for 2021 when the process concluded last year in August, as it was not financially possible at that time to add more posts despite the expected growth in learner numbers. We were, however, later able to add a further 588 additional posts starting April 1 to deal with the number of unplaced learners and overcrowding,” she said.
“The cost to catch up the backlog of 2 046 posts at the start of this year would amount to R893.4m in the first year of appointment.” Labour unions have expressed concern about the shortfall and are not optimistic for the process for 2022, which was set to begin in July and conclude in August.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union Western Cape secretary, Jonovan Rustin, said: “The WCED’s excuse has always been that the equitable share from the national government does not match the number of learners in the Western Cape.
“Yes, the budget is a problem, and the creation of posts in the province are bound to be affected by this, but we cannot sit by and blame the budget each year. The prioritisation of the budget is a challenge in this province,” Rustin said.
“More money needs to be allocated to education to address the quality of education learners receive. When the province was going through a drought, money was allocated to assist those in need, surely the same can be done in this instance as well?
“Every year the department goes through a consultation process. The problem there is it’s not a negotiation but them coming to us with a budget that has been established and we just have to accept what they tell us.
“The reality is that teacher to learner ratios are increasing, which means overcrowding in classes. Instead of having 35 learners, you sometimes find classes with up to 55 learners. This has an impact on the quality of teaching.”
Deputy chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, Dr Jaco Deacon, warned that teachers were under pressure dealing with big classes.
“They are struggling to reach learners on an individual basis because there are simply too many children in a class.
“The influx of learners to provinces like Gauteng and the Western Cape has been something that has happened for years now, and the rule is the money is supposed to follow the child, but that only happens two to three years later, putting a strain on the system.
“Teaching posts simply are not increasing enough to match the growing number of children and that is due to poor planning.
“Learner migration is nothing new. We are simply not building enough schools and bringing in enough teachers into the system to match the growing demand. It is not a sustainable way of operating.”