The Gauteng Education Department is looking to employ "young and dynamic" teachers after thousands of educators in the province have applied to either work from home or exit the system indefinitely for fear of COVID-19.
As of 15 of July, the department had received 3 699 applications from teachers who are above the age of 60 and cannot report for duty due to comorbidities.
Of these, 2 117 are from primary schools, 1 193 are from secondary schools and 389 from special needs schools.
"It's a huge number," Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said.
He said the department is working around the clock to authorise those who can stay at home and those who can continue to work.
"The total number of concessions we've received is 4 100, of which 48 are working from our offices and 206 who are working as teachers but are not school-based," he explained.
"In terms of those who are school-based, it is 3 414 and in terms of the office staff that are assisting in school we've received 432 applications."
Meanwhile, only 658 applications have been approved so far.
"You can see that we need to replace the educators in Gauteng who say they don't want to come back with almost 3 620 educators with young, dynamic new educators."
Lesufi said they have already started the process of looking for new teachers and encourages young people to grab the opportunities.
Schools affected by COVID-19
Meanwhile, of the 2 131 public schools in the province, 1 977 were risk-free and never had a COVID-19 incident or reported it.
"It's only 154 schools that we had to close and open because they reported incidents of COVID-19," he said, adding they were decontaminated before they could be reopened.
Out of 129 special schools, 25 had reported incidents, while out of 713 independent schools which are subsidised by the government but mainly private, only 57 had people who tested positive.
In the province, there are 1 527 people who contracted the virus within the education system of which 402 were learners, 977 educators and 99 administration staff.
Also, general assistance staff such as cleaners and gardeners accounts to 44 who tested positive.
Meanwhile, there are five youth brigade members, who do the screening in schools, who have contracted the Coronavirus.
According to Lesufi, Grade R has the lowest form of attendance; only 23% of learners came back since the reopening of schools.
"The majority of learners preferred to learn at home," Lesufi explained.
Only 53% of Grade 6 learners went back to school, 58% in Grade 7 and Grade 11 is sitting at 61%.
According to Lesufi, the highest attendance is at Grade 12 at 70%.
"It's still worrying. We can't account for almost 30% of Grade 12 learners who are not attending schools in Gauteng as of now. It is something we are working very hard to rectify because it has implications in terms of the skill base of the province but most importantly in terms of transition to higher education."
Meanwhile, the average attendance of teachers in Grade R is 69%, 71% in Grade 6, 75% in Grade 7, 74% in Grade 11, and 76% in Grade 12.
"I think we are very fortunate that we have 70% of learners that are attending Grade 12, so the 76% attendance of educators slightly makes us accommodate the number of available learners," he said.
"So, if more learners can come back you will see that we're going to struggle in terms of teacher population."
Protests in schools
The MEC has also spoken against the communities that embark on protests and calling on the closure of schools supported by student formation and parents' organisations.
"In our province, we've put it clearly, you have a choice to stay at home or come to school. Those who decide to come to school, protect their human rights as well that they have made that choice," he stressed.
Lesufi said the department was providing support to parents whose children remain at home.
"You've got the right to stay at home and will provide academic support. So, there is no need to disrupt schools on the basis that you want schools to be closed."
However, he said the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is attending to this matter.
In response to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question, Motshekga said as of 23 June, 16 168 educators had declared comorbidities.
"The processing of applications is ongoing, and therefore the numbers are not final," the Minister said.
According to the response, the number of educators who work from home will be finalised once the process of approving and granting all concessions has been completed.
Motshekga said a substitute will be provided where needed and will depend on the extent of work the educator at home can accomplish.
"This may range from a fully qualified substitute to fully replace an educator at home to a teacher aid or assistant that will act under the guidance of the educator at home, or another educator present at school."