THE national and provincial education departments yesterday threw in the towel and agreed to a Grahamstown high court order in terms of which they will, within three months, implement the 2012 teacher post establishment in full.
After fighting the issue for aboutsome two months, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, her director-general,DG Bobby Soobrayan, Education MEC Mandla Makupula and his acting DG, Mthunywa Ngonzo, yesterday capitulated and acknowledged they arewere obliged to permanently fill every vacant teaching post at every school in the province.
It will be the first time in a decade that the Eastern Cape will implement its teacher post establishment. The minister, MEC and their DGs have agreed to an order in terms of which they will:
ęWithin three months, implement the 2012 provincial educator establishment in full, by appointing, on a permanent basis, teachers to all vacant substantive posts declared in this year'the 2012s educator establishment for public schools;
ęWithin one month, appoint teachers on a temporary basis pending their permanent appointment;
ęWithin three weeks, pay outstanding salaries of all temporary teachers. In those cases where schools have been forced to foot the bill for these salaries out of their own funds, the schools must themselves be reimbursed; and
ęDeclare the 2013 next year's teacher establishment for public schools by September 30 and ensure the positions are filled by January 31.
The departments have also agreed to provide reports to each district office and to the Legal Resources Centre next month, in August and in November, this year and in January next year, on all steps taken to do as ordered. Finally, the departments agreed to foot the legal costs of the application.
However, while the departments finally accepted their obligation to appoint teachers in terms of the post establishment, they continued to fight the issue of appointing non-teaching staff at schools.
Many of the schools spelt out how they had been devastated by what amounted to a 16-year moratorium on the appointment of support staff. Boarding schools and special needs schools had been particularly hard hit.
Cape Recife in Port Elizabeth, which is both a special needs and a boarding school, pointed out that its post establishment for non- teaching staff had been set by the department itself at 77 posts. These , which included administrative officers, housekeepers, food aids, cleaners, drivers, laundry assistants, therapy aids, teacher aids, security guards, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and hostel superintendents and supervisors.
Currently, only 22 of the 77 vacant non-personnel posts had beenare filled, leaving 55 posts vacant – making it impossible for the school to cater for its pupils.
While advocates Selby Mbenenge, SC, on behalf of the MEC, and advocate Sally Collett, on behalf ofor the minister, argued that there was no statutory obligation on the province to declare a post establishment for non- teaching staff, the Centre for Child Law (CCL) and the applicant schools denied this was the case.
Advocate Steven Budlender, for the CCL, said the broader legislative "scheme” made it clear there was an obligation on the department to do so – and pointed out that the department had in fact declared a non-teaching post establishment from time to time, but for overmore than a decade had failed to appoint staff in terms of this. establishment.
The schools and the CCL are asking the court to order the minister and MEC to declare the 2013 post establishment for non-teaching staff and implement it by January next year.
Judge Clive Plasket reserved judgment on the issue. He said he would hand down the agreed-to order simultaneously with his decision on the issue of appointing non-teaching staff.
Although delighted by the belated settlement, Centre for Child Law director Ann Skelton questioned why the departments fought the application for so long – raising technical arguments throughout.
"They fought the matter at great cost to everyone.”
Even worse, they continued to fight the issue of non-educator posts on similarly technical terms today, she said.
Director of the Legal Resources Centre director Sarah Sephton, who is acting for the CCL and dozens of schools in from across the province, said yesterday she was very pleased with the settlement.
"But I am dismayed that it required the limited resources of NGOs to take the departments to court to get them to do what they are statutorily required to do for learners in this province,” she said.