The DA said in a statement that about 400 maths and science teachers could not get access to the province due to strict Covid-19 regulations which prohibited them from returning from neighbouring countries. The party called on Limpopo MEC for education Polly Boshielo to engage her national home affairs counterpart Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to allow the teachers working in Limpopo to enter the country.
"Our concerns stem from a recent education portfolio committee meeting last week where it was revealed that the province has about 400 gateway subject teachers, some of which are from Zimbabwe, that cannot enter the province to teach due to cross border travel restrictions on Covid-19 and lockdown regulations," said the party in a statement.
Gateway subjects refer to subjects like mathematics, physical science, economics, agricultural sciences, geography and accounting which are considered critical for the country's development and economic growth.
DA provincial leader Jacques Smalle said the subjects were critical for entrance into higher education programs that would offer greater availability of job opportunities.
"The failure of these gateway subject teachers to enter the country and resume work will have an extremely negative effect on the preparation of learners for their final exams and their chances to achieve good marks for admission into institutions of higher learning. The impact of the failure of these teachers to resume work is further compounded by the fact that almost half the school year has been lost due to Covid-19," said Smalle.
"In the 2019 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams Limpopo had lower percentages than the national averages of learners that achieved 30% and above in all eleven of the gateway subjects. It is evident that the province cannot afford to carry on without these teachers," he added.
Smalle said these gateway teachers should be allowed to enter the country as a matter of urgency, given their immense contribution to the education of learners in the province and the high demand for their skills.
But the department on Tuesday denied the numbers as claimed by the party, saying they were blown out of proportion. The department further said the DA got the wrong end of the stick and that there was no problem with teacher shortages in the province as a result of those who have not yet returned from neighbouring countries, as they had been replaced.
Basic education Limpopo provincial spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said her department employed a total of 379 foreign educators teaching mathematics and physical science in secondary schools.
She said 20 of the teachers were locked outside the country in Zimbabwe due to the national lockdown.
"The department of home affairs has thus far assisted four to return to South Africa. Sixteen are still not yet back, however processes are underway to help them back into the country. These educators are appointed in temporary posts due to the nature of their citizenship. They are paid a normal educator salary through the PERSAL system. Those who are not yet back are deemed to be on unpaid leave.
"The department has since stopped their salaries and substituted them in an endeavour to ensure that the culture of learning and teaching goes back to its national agenda," Chuene told The Citizen.
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