MEC for education Mandla Makupula has urged “excess” teachers to approach their district offices and voluntarily identify schools with vacancies that match their skills profile.

Makupula was speaking during a media briefing held at East London’s Education Leadership Institute yesterday.

This comes after unsuccessful attempts by the department to redeploy 6781 excess teachers to schools with shortages. Makupula said only 1974 teachers had followed the instruction.

Last month acting education superintendent-general Mthunywa Ngonzo, disputed the issue of teacher shortages in the province and said they needed to redeploy the teachers first. But the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in the province opposed the statement saying the department should employ more teachers instead.

In a stern warning to teachers refusing to move where there was a shortage, the MEC said: “The department is considering various options, including possible withdrawal of salaries for those teachers who continue to ignore the directive.”

“It is unacceptable that principals and school management teams have, to date, wilfully ignored a direct instruction from the department, and that only 1974 teachers have been identified out of 6781. This amounts to insubordination and dereliction of duty.

“The acting HOD (Ngonzo) has issued instructions to our labour section to commence the process of identifying and preparing charges against all those deemed to be wilfully ignoring direct instructions,” Makupula said.

He said the department would soon close schools where there was a small number of pupils with excess teachers.

“In order to be able to respond adequately and effectively to this situation, the department will develop a provincial framework for the merger and closure of small unavailable schools,” he said.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa provincial chairperson Sithembiso Malusi said the issue of deployment was signed in 2003 with all the unions in the province, including Sadtu.

“Our stance on the matter is that this should have been implemented a long time ago with all the fair processes followed,” Malusi said.

DA shadow MEC for education Edmund van Vuuren said: “We believe that teachers who cannot be redeployed and who do not fit the profile of substantive vacant posts should be offered a severance package without penalties if they are within the 50-60 years age cohort. It is time that the department gets tough. Unless teachers move from where they are in excess and we find that there are still vacancies thereafter, additional funding will only make the situation worse.”