Teachers leave pupils with blank boards and Motshekga with a problem
The number of teachers who skip school every day is ‘deeply troubling’, says the minister of basic education
Ten percent of teachers are absent on a daily basis in primary and secondary schools, a trend described as “deeply troubling” by basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
She was speaking at the release of the School Monitoring Survey (SMS) 2017 that outlines her department’s successes and challenges since the release of the last SMS in 2011.
The report also shows that only 80% of schools have access to adequate sanitation, while even fewer have running water.
The 2017 survey, according to Motshekga, was done nationally at 1,000 schools offering Grade 6, and 1,000 schools that offer Grade 12. It focused on 13 of the 15 action plan indicators that were measured in 2011.
These include the number of hours teachers spend on professional development a year, the percentage of schools where all allocated teaching posts are filled, the percentage of teachers absent from school on an average day and the percentage of schools that comply with nationally determined minimum physical infrastructure standards.
“The 2017 SMS therefore allows the department to both reflect on the progress made in terms of service delivery, as well as focus on the areas which will require further support,” Motshekga said.
According to the survey, the national average for teacher absence on a daily basis was 10%. This percentage shows an increase of 2% in comparison to the 2011 survey the department conducted.
Teacher absenteeism was noted within primary and secondary schools across provinces, the survey shows.
The Northern Cape, North West and the Eastern Cape had a high number of teachers who were absent from school. Teacher absenteeism was lower in Limpopo and the Free State, with the former having recorded 6% absenteeism and the latter 7%.
“This is deeply troubling. We must do more to support our teachers. There’s a need to drill deeper into the statistics to understand this leave of absence,” Motshekga said.
She said the department was monitoring teacher absenteeism, as valuable time for teaching was lost when a teacher was absent from school. “If a teacher doesn’t turn up, you have children who sit around at school without a teacher.”
Improvement in access to textbooks
The survey shows that the percentage of pupils who have access to textbooks and workbooks for the year has increased since 2011. However, the level of pupil access to readers and works of fiction is lower, with approximately 68% of Grade 6 and Grade 9 pupils having had access.
“Most schools don’t have an adequate retrieval system, which makes it difficult to retrieve textbooks and for parents to replace lost textbooks,” said Motshekga.
Infrastructure remains problematic
“The bugbear in the sector remains the physical infrastructure. The survey confirms my assertion that the present infrastructure delivery model isn’t appropriate for basic education,” Motshekga said, adding there was a need to rethink the funding, delivery, planning and maintenance of infrastructure as a whole.
She noted with regret that only 76% of schools in the country had running water and 80% had “adequately” functioning sanitation.
“This value was only marginally improved from 2011.”
She said the department had managed to “break through the glass ceiling” on the issue of sanitation.
“As you know the president has made money available to eradicate pit latrines within three years. Since we launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education in August last year, some 234 projects out of 3,898 have reached practical completion.”
She said a further 787 sanitation provincial projects were at practical and final completion in the 2018/19 financial year.
Teacher development has improved
According to the survey, teacher development has increased.
“The 2017 survey says the overall average hours of professional development per teacher per year reflected an improvement since 2011, up from 36 to 42 hours,” Motshekga said, adding the department’s target for 2024 was an annual 80 hours per teacher.
Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape have, according to Motshekga, recorded an increase in hours dedicated to teacher development.
Motshekga said the department was implementing initiatives through the provincial infrastructure programmes, including sanitation projects.
“Outside of the Safe [Sanitation Appropriate for Education] initiative, a further 787 sanitation projects are at practical and final completion in the 2018/19 financial year.”
She said the department had delivered sanitation to more than 10,621 schools since the year 2000.
Since that year, the department of basic education has also increased the number of classrooms and built new schools, according to Motshekga,.
“We have added some 38,664 additional classrooms and over 1,200 new schools since 2000.”