Reply by Minister of Basic Education A Motshekga questions posed in the National Assembly for oral reply
4 Jun 2010
Mr J R B Lorimer (DA) to ask the Minister of Basic Education:
(1) (a) What (i) is the average (aa) absentee rate of state-paid educators in each province and (bb) number of sick days taken by educators in an 18 month cycle in each province, and (ii) are the three most common reasons for absenteeism in each province and (b) how does this compare with the absentee rate of educators paid by governing bodies of public schools in each province;
(2) whether absenteeism has any impact on teaching and learning; if not, what is basis for this conclusion; if so, what are the relevant details in each province? NW2129E
(1) (a) This reply will be based on the recent research on educator leave commissioned by the Department of Basic Education in 2009 (Report published in 2010). (i) (aa) The study analysed recorded leave data on Persal and the data collected through visits to a sample of schools. As part of the analysis, the findings of the Khulisa Audit study conducted in 2008 were also used as a proxy measure. The study concluded that the absentee rate was estimated at about eight percent. This rate covered all forms of absence which included leave taken in terms of the leave prescripts, attendance of official activities such as workshops and meetings, undertaking official duties away from schools excursions and sports trips. The 8 percent rate was reached after discounting 0.5 percent representing maternity leave after finding that schools were generally successful in finding replacement educators. This translates on average to 16 days of instructional time being lost by each educator per school calendar year.
The Table below provides a breakdown of estimates per province:
| Province absence rate || percent|
| Eastern Cape || 10.5|
| Free State || 7.2 |
| Gauteng || 9.4 |
| KwaZulu-Natal || 10.3 |
| Limpopo || 8.8 |
| Mpumalanga || 8 |
| Northern Cape || 8.5 |
| North West || 8.9 |
| Western Cape || 8.2 |
| Source || DBE 2010|
(bb) From the findings of this particular study it is estimated that 25 percent of absence is due to sick leave being taken which is the highest of all absences. (ii) the main reason for absence at school is due to sickness, followed by official duties such as undertaking professional development workshops.
b) The study only covers state-paid educators and thus does not allow for comparison between state-paid and SGB-paid educator absentee rates.
(2) Any absence of a teacher from school, for whatever reason, has a negative impact on learning and teaching due to lost instructional time. It is the extent of the absence, however, which could give an indication of the impact on learning and teaching. Also key is the extent to which substitute teacher systems and families (in lower grades) can mitigate the loss of instructional time. The larger the length of instructional time lost the more negative the impact, given that the educator might not be able to make up for the lost instructional time and thus not cover the full extent of the curriculum.
As a form of benchmarking, the study also looked at the comparison of absentee rate in highincome and low-income countries. The average rate of teacher absence in high-income countries is between three percent and six percent while in low-income countries it is at around 19 percent. South Africa is thus closer to high income countries in terms of the absentee rate. The above potential implications of teacher absence are applicable to all provinces.
Source: Department of Education
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
4 Jun 2010
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