Mixed reactions as thousands of teachers are expected to report back for work

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All teachers, who were granted concessions to work from home during the nationwide lockdown, have to report back to school on Monday morning. The Basic Education Department gave 22 500 teachers permission to work from home as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic.

Substitute teachers were employed in their absence.

The teachers’ return to school coincides with the country’s move to lockdown Alert Level 1 from Monday.

The concessions were given to teachers with underlying health conditions, who were deemed to be at an increased risk of getting seriously ill and even dying if they contracted the virus.

The department says the move to Level 1 means that the risk has significantly diminished.

Basic Education Department Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga says school management must fulfil the contracts with substitute teachers.

“This is because the collective agreement between teacher unions and the department will cease to exist at midnight on the 20th of September. We know that there have been substitute teachers who have been employed. We request that schools continue to meet their contractual obligations towards them until such time that their contracts have expired, but they could also find other ways of utilising the services of the substitute teachers,” explains Mhlanga.

Teachers’ union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has advised educators, who are not ready to return to school to apply for normal leave.

Sadtu General-Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke says the revised curriculum and alternate school days for certain grades will continue when the last batch of teachers return to work. He says government should use part of the COVID-19 Relief Fund to enhance teaching and learning.

“Now, with Level 1, we believe that government would be able to ‘repatriate’ the amount of money almost R2.1 billion that they gave to the relief fund so that it can assist us in our schools. That is what we believe should be able to happen. We need to strengthen our campaigns around issues of health and safety because the virus is not relaxing. We will not be having 100% occupation, clearly. It is that we are going to have … a revised percentages. We will still maintain the 50% occupation. We will still maintain the rotation. In terms of the timetable, we will still maintain the revised curriculum.”

Thousands of teachers expected to return to work on Monday:

The National Teacher’s Union (NATU) has called on the Basic Education Department to reconsider keeping substitute teachers in schools until the end of the year to assist since it believes not all teachers will return to schools today.

The union has also called on its members, who are not feeling well to stay at home and follow proper procedures of applying for sick leave.

Here’s NATU President, Allen Thompson, “We want to make a call again that the teachers that have been employed as substitute teachers in those schools that were fortunate to get substitute teachers, the department must consider allowing those teachers to continue assisting teachers with comorbidities, especially because we still have overcrowded classes, that is going to perpetuate the problem of infection in school. There is no class that must have more than 40 learners in the classroom. So as a result, we still need additional teachers who are going to ensure that we reduce the class size.”