Opinionista Mduduzi Mbiza 6 June 2019

Children are the losers as teacher absenteeism rises

Every day in South Africa, 10% of teachers don’t pitch for work. That means more than 135,000 children go untaught daily, and this will have a serious long-term impact.

What happens when a learner goes to school and finds the teacher absent? Since it’s the teacher’s job to teach, a learner in this kind of situation is likely to sit and wait for the teacher to come back.

At the end of the day, two things would have happened: the teacher would have not done their job and the learner would have lost out on a lesson.

The 2017 School Monitoring Survey released earlier in 2019 by the Department of Basic Education revealed that the number of teachers absent from school on a daily basis had increased from 8% to 10%.

The report was delivered by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, who added that more should be done to support teachers in South Africa. She said that there is a need to drill deeper into the statistics to understand the leave-of-absence phenomenon.

This article seeks to drill just a little deeper into the statistics to understand a much more unique phenomenon.

According to the 2017 School Realities report, there were a total of 433,320 teachers in ordinary schools while the learner to teacher ratio in ordinary schools was 31.3:1 that year.

In 2017, 10% of the teachers were absent on a daily basis. This means that a total of 4,332 teachers were absent every day.

We can’t ignore the fact that absenteeism can happen for many reasons. However, for the sake of this article, we will take absenteeism as it is — not showing up at school. If the learner to teacher ratio was 31.3:1 and the total number of teachers who were absent on a daily basis was 4,332, we get what I call the magic number – 135,591.6.

This magic number is the number of learners who suffered on a daily basis from the 10% of teachers who were absent in 2017.

The most challenging thing about this unique phenomenon is that we won’t realise its effect until it’s visible in learner performance and other related matters. DM

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