PARTY

DBE receives 22 882 applications for incapacity leave - Annette Lovemore

DA MP says this means over 20 000 teachers have not been at work for past year

More than 20 000 teachers on extended sick leave

22 882 applications for incapacity leave (or sick leave over and above the 36 days granted in a 3-year cycle) and early retirement due to ill-health had been received across the country as at 30 September this year. This was revealed in a reply to a DA parliamentary question; the information was requested from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga after a response to similar DA question earlier raised concerns. 

The numbers per province can be summarised as follows:

Province

Incapacity and ill-health retirement applications as at 31 March 2013

% of educator workforce

Incapacity and ill-health retirement applications as at 30 September 2013 

% of educator workforce 

 EC

5 604

8.9 

736 

1.2 

 FS

804 

3.4 

3 332 

14.0 

 GP

2 171 

3.7 

3 238 

5.5 

 KZN

7 806 

8.6 

9 909 

10.9 

 LP

448 

0.8 

234 

0.4 

 MP

3 726 

11.2 

3 704 

11.1 

 NW

256 

1.0 

516 

2.1 

 NC

140 

1.6 

279 

3.2 

 WC

452 

1.4 

934 

2.9 

 SA

21 407 

5.5 

22 882 

5.8 

The Minister has explained that, for the past year, no Health Risk Managers have been in place to deal with submitted applications. Health Risk Managers have now been appointed and will be allocated to the various Departments and provinces to begin dealing with the backlog. 

However, for the past year, over 20 000 teachers have not been at work because they have been ill, or they have submitted claims that they are ill. All have previously utilised the sick leave available to them. 2 050 of this number have applied for early retirement, based on their ill-health, with 1 695 applications being received in the Free State alone. 

We note that the Eastern Cape is reported to have only 736 applications outstanding. This might well be a data-capturing error as the Eastern Cape MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula, reported the number to be over 9 000 earlier this year.

Every time a teacher goes off sick, learners are affected. That teacher must be paid, in full, until such time as his/her application has been dealt with. The province in question would then have to draw from its often meagre budget to replace the teacher with a temporary employee. This happens in functional provinces. In less functional provinces, School Governing Bodies (SGBs) try to cover the costs of a replacement, or classes are simply left untaught. The problem is serious. 

The DA is pleased that the backlog will now be dealt with, and we will monitor the process carefully, pressurising for speedy resolution. 

However, the Minister cannot turn her back on this issue now that the applications are being processed. She must now attend to the underlying reason or reasons for the existence of the problem. Why are over 20 000 teachers too ill to teach? From what are they predominantly suffering? Is it stress, depression or abuse of the system?

Minister Motshekga knows that she owes every child in every classroom a committed, capable teacher at all times. The enormity of the phenomenon of illness or purported illness preventing this from happening has rendered an investigation into the reasons and the remedies urgent. 

Statement issued by Annette Lovemore MP, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, December 3 2013

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