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Teachers’ absenteeism is a red flag

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Access to workbooks and textbooks has improved and much more is being done to improve infrastructure, especially safe sanitation, at schools

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ON any given day in classrooms across South Africa, one in 10 teachers could be absent.

This emerged from the School Monitoring Survey, details of which were released in Pretoria by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Monday.

The survey, undertaken in 2017, revealed little improvement in absenteeism rates from a survey done six years earlier, although in many other regards it showed positive change in the provision of basic education in the country.

For example, access to workbooks and textbooks has improved and much more is being done to improve infrastructure, especially safe sanitation, at schools.

As the minister noted, there is a need to understand the absence phenomena and the role that principals should play in ensuring that teaching takes place in their schools.

The question is, are all absent teachers playing truant? Or, are some of those not at school feeling let down by the system, overwhelmed by the amount of work or unable to cope with 40 or more children in their classrooms, some of whom may be disruptive and destructive?

How are teachers affected by what transpires in their communities, including strikes, violence and intimidation; what support do they receive from parents, school bodies and the wider community they serve?

What is the impact of poor infrastructure on them – classrooms with broken windows, playgrounds with no grass, toilets that don’t flush and libraries with no books? And do they feel they are fairly remunerated?

Education is vital in improving the future of our children and the absence of teachers from their posts is an obstacle to achieving this.

The survey is a reminder of the need to protect and encourage teachers and monitor their performance, so they are in the classroom where they need to be, and days off are restricted to school holidays.