THE Eastern Cape Education Department is heading for a collision course with the Bhisho High Court over the reinstatement of temporary teachers whose contracts were summarily cancelled in December.
It emerged yesterday that the department was unlikely to comply with an interim order granted on Tuesday, which ruled that thousands of temporary teachers be reinstated within five days.
The court action was brought by the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas) and the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (Saou), together with Westering High and Primary schools in Port Elizabeth, against the MEC and superintendent-general of education in the province to reinstate 6 282 temporary teachers.
Instead of reinstating the teachers, the department plans to hire “replacement” teachers for schools with “critical vacancies” when it issues a teacher post bulletin next week. It also emerged yesterday that the department had also filed papers to oppose the order.
Responding to a question at the Bhisho Legislature from the DA’s Bobby Stevenson on steps to ensure that affected schools received replacement teachers, Education MEC Mandla Makupula said the department had identified schools with “critical vacancies” due to termination of the temporary teachers’ contracts.
“The department has prioritised the filling of (critical) vacancies as a matter of urgency through a shortened recruitment process, including invoking Section 6(a) of the Employment of Educators Act,” Makupula said.
“School governing bodies have been consulted on this matter and a bulletin with shorter timeframes is being prepared for issuing before the end of February,” he said.
However, asked whether his department would appeal or comply with the interim order, Makupula said: “Considering the fact that the case has already been in court, we are considering the judgment.”
Makupula also said his department was finalising this year’s post establishment for schools.
“The process is scheduled to start in April in terms of the management plan,” he said.
Stevenson said he did not see the department complying with the time-frames set by the court.
“This is in contradiction with the judgment that temporary staff be immediately reinstated. I don’t see them doing it within those time-frames.” Stevenson also said pupils suffered because of complete bureaucratic bungling.
“It is important that these temporary teachers are immediately reinstated. What we cannot have now is long delays when the department considers appeals and other bureaucratic considerations.”
Port Elizabeth-based attorney Mike Randell, instructing the case against the department, said: “It seems to me to be at odds with the instruction he gave to his attorneys to take the judges’ order on appeal. The children are to be teacher-less again.”
Randell said the application for leave of appeal would be opposed. “We will oppose it as strenuously as we can,” he said.