South Africa’s education system has another problem: teachers not turning up

The Department of Basic Education has published its latest School Monitoring Survey, showing where the country’s schools are improving and also where things are getting worse.

The survey was commissioned by the department in 2017, and sought to measure the progress of public schools through to 2019.

Across the major indicators, the department measured areas of concern including vacant teaching posts, teacher absenteeism, access to books and libraries, the functionality of school governing bodies, and the effectiveness of national exams.

While some areas showed improvement since the previous survey (2011), others underlined growing problems.

According to the department, on the positive side, access to libraries has increased across South Africa’s schools – even more so in poorer areas.

Schools have also become more effective in terms of their governing bodies and infrastructure needs. However, only 59% schools meet the national infrastructure standards, the report showed.

Teachers also remain a problem, with teacher absenteeism increasing. As many as one in 10 teachers are AWOL on any given day – this despite vacancies filling up.

According to the survey results, cases of teacher absenteeism have increased from under 8% in 2011, to over 10% in 2017/18.

The tables below show the percentage of absenteeism at primary and secondary schools in South Africa, by province.

For primary schools, Northern Cape teachers tend to be absent the most – while Eastern Cape teachers are the biggest offenders at secondary school level.

According to the department, relatively high absentee rates, that is, large percentages of schools reporting teacher absence rates of 10% or more, occurred in secondary schools in the Eastern Cape (48%).

“This could possibly be linked to the high number of small schools, and the contingent rural landscape, in the Eastern Cape,” the report said.

Relatively small percentages of secondary schools in the Eastern Cape (around 32%), as well as in the Free State, Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the North West (all around or just above 40%), reported teacher absentee rates below 5%.

A similarly high figure of 40% of primary schools in the Eastern Cape reported high teacher absence rates of 10% or more. Compared to other provinces, teachers in schools in Limpopo displayed low absentee rates.

How they get away with it

In an assessment of the school registers, the department found high levels of teachers signing the registers for days in advance.

This was most common in KwaZulu Natal, where as many as 42% of primary teachers were found to have signed in advance.

For both primary and secondary schools, teacher absenteeism is most prevalent on Friday.

Education minister Angie Motshekga said the report represented a mixed bag of results, showing that more works needs to be done.

“The information provided by the 2017 School Monitoring Survey will enable the department to fulfil its mandate of monitoring and evaluating education provision across provinces.

“The survey will assist in informing the next administration where to focus and areas that require improvement,” Motshekga said.

Read: South Africa’s poor education system partly to blame for low economic growth: IMF

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South Africa’s education system has another problem: teachers not turning up