A shortage of teachers and a loss of others to COVID-19 related deaths are adding to the anxiety of educational authorities in the Eastern Cape, as the province gears for the opening of schools. 827 teacher vacancies need to be filled ahead of the beginning of the 2021 academic year on the 15 February.

More than 600 of the vacancies are as a result of the resignations and deaths of teachers from COVID-19 related complications since the start of the pandemic.

Most schools will start this academic year with fewer teachers. This is a pain that Ulwazi High School in Mdantsane knows too well. It lost its principal in November last year from COVID-19 related complications.

Acting principal, Edmond Makalima, says the pandemic has dealt them a heavy blow. “COVID- 19 has robbed us of a great leader. She led the school diligently with passion and commitment, so her legacy will last forever and we will continue embracing her.”

Teachers’ union Sadtu in the province says it has lost more than 450 members, as a result of COVID-19 related complications. It is calling for teachers’ positions to be filled urgently.

“We know that there are a number of qualified young people who are sitting at home doing nothing. If our department can be considerate of that reality so that we deliver what we brag about, curriculum. We would be over the moon as Sadtu,” says Sadtu’s provincial secretary Chris Mdingi.

The Education Department says it is starting to recruit at the district level.

“As a department, we have a pool of qualified teachers we can easily choose from. One we have additional teachers who have been declared additional from their establishment and therefore we are going to consider them. The second category is that of bursary holders and then we can also choose from non-bursary holders who are unemployed,” says the department’s acting head Doctor Soyisile Nuku.

Unions are urging the department to move with speed to fill the vacant positions to avoid disrupting the academic year.

Below are the latest coronavirus stats: 

 

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