Africa & World

Zim teachers working in SA ‘locked outside’ by Covid-19 restrictions

“The impact of the failure of these teachers to resume work is further compounded by the fact that almost half the school year has been lost due to Covid-19.”

MEDIA reports in South Africa say that a process is under way to bring into the country 16 school teachers from Zimbabwe who work in Limpopo Province but have been unable to return to SA due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The DA in Limpopo has called on provincial education MEC Polly Boshielo to engage home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to allow teachers working in Limpopo to enter the country.

Limpopo education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene confirmed that the provincial education department employed a total of 379 foreign educators, teaching mathematics and physical science in secondary schools.

“Twenty of them were locked outside the country in Zimbabwe due to the national lockdown. The department of home affairs has thus far assisted four to return to South Africa,” she said. 

Chuene said 16 were still not yet back, but processes were under way to help them return.

“These educators are appointed in temporary posts due to the nature of their citizenship. They are paid a normal educator salary through the Persal [personnel and salary administration] system,” said Chuene.

“Those who are not yet back are deemed to be on unpaid leave. The department has stopped their salaries and substituted them.”

DA MPL Jacques Smalle said during an education portfolio committee meeting last week that the province had about 400 gateway subject teachers, mostly from Zimbabwe, that could not enter the province due to cross-border travel restrictions.

Gateway subjects refer to subjects which are considered critical for the country’s development and economic growth, such as mathematics, physical science, economics, agricultural sciences, geography and accounting. These subjects are also critical for entrance into higher education programmes.

“The failure of these gateway subject teachers to enter the country and resume work will have an extremely negative effect on the preparation of learners for their final exams and their chances to achieve good marks for admission into institutions of higher learning,” said Smalle.

“The impact of the failure of these teachers to resume work is further compounded by the fact that almost half the school year has been lost due to Covid-19.”

In the 2019 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams Limpopo had lower percentages than the national averages of learners that achieved 30% and above in all eleven of the gateway subjects.

Smalle said it was evident that the province could not afford to carry on without these teachers.

“These gateway teachers should be allowed to enter the country as a matter of urgency, given their immense contribution to the education of learners in the province and the high demand for their skills,” he said.

“The impact of Covid-19 on the schooling year should see gateway subject teachers being viewed as critical skills. They should be allowed to enter the country, provided that they have valid work permits and have undergone the necessary screening.”

Limpopo attained an overall pass rate of 73.2%  last year. Nine Limpopo schools obtained a 0% pass rate in the 2019 matric exams – five in the Sekhukhune District, two in Capricorn and two in Waterberg.

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