Vacant teacher posts have more than doubled

The number of vacant teacher posts around the country more than doubled in the first quarter of this year, MPs heard yesterday.

Figures tabled by senior department officials during a briefing to members of Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee show the worst-affected region was Mpumalanga, where the number of vacancies rose from 3.32 percent to 14.48 percent.

The actual number of teacher vacancies in this province rose from 857 on January 12 this year, to 3738 on March 12.

Across all nine provinces, the total number of vacant posts rose from 10,846 on January 12, to 22,051 three months later (from 3.72 percent to 7.56 percent).

The highest vacancy rate was in the Eastern Cape (5107 vacancies on March 12); the lowest was in the Northern Cape, where vacancies dropped slightly over the quarter, from 654 to 628.

In Limpopo, the province that experienced a major textbook crisis, the total vacancies shot up form 190 in mid-January to 3197 in mid-March (from 0.44 to 7.40 percent).

According to basic education deputy director Devi Pillay, the percentages are calculated against what the department calls a post provisioning norm (PPN), which is “the number of teaching posts declared [in a particular province] by the [education] MEC”.

Earlier, Pillay briefed the committee on “teacher demand and supply” at public schools in South Africa.

“[A total of] 70.5 percent of schools had no vacancies in January 2012, [a figure] which decreased to 38 percent in March this year.”

She said it was “not apparent” why the vacancy rate had suddenly increased, but warned there were problems with the department’s Persal (personnel and salary) system, from where the figures were derived.

Persal was “not correctly linked” to the department’s basic accounting system.

“The quality and accuracy of our Persal data is questionable,” Pillay said.

She said solving this problem would be a “mammoth task”, given the volume of historically inaccurate data contained in the 15-year-old system. The number of temporary teacher appointments had also risen.

According to the document: “Use of temporary appointments increased between January and March [this year] from eight to 12 percent.”

Acting deputy director-general Themba Kojana told the committee the teacher “attrition rate” was 3.2 percent a year, involving 12,500 teachers.

Responding to a question, he said 43 percent of the teachers leaving the department were in the 30 to 39 year age group.

The department was not immediately able to say how many teachers were currently employed at public schools in each province.

The total of the posts declared (PPNs) in each of the nine provinces, as shown in the document tabled at the briefing, was 291,669.