Man with ABET certificate a teacher at Eastern Cape high school for nine years

Middle Zolo grade 12 learner Lelethu Maqunuba doing maths exercise. Credit: Elitsha
Ngqamakhwe, Eastern Cape

An unqualified teacher has been teaching Maths and Science for the past nine years in Ngqamakhwe.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) is investigating a Maths and Physical Science teacher from Middle Zolo High School in Ngqamakhwe, a few kilometers away from Butterworth, who was allegedly hired to teach high school despite having only an Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) qualification. This has been happening for the past nine years.

The investigation came after the school principal submitted a report on why the school achieved a zero percent matric pass rate.
According to the School Governing Body, the new principal informed the ECDOE that the Physical Science and Maths teacher is not qualified to teach at high school level. On top of that, the teacher was not trained to teach the two subjects. The School Governing Body also complained about the teacher’s attendance.

Elitsha visited the school to speak with learners and school governing body members.

On our arrival at the school we were told that the Maths and Physical Science teacher was not at school. Grade 10 and grade 12 learners were busy teaching themselves.

They told this reporter that the teacher is hardly at the school and when he is there, he only gives them exercises to do with no explanations. Learners said it is hard to follow the subjects as he keeps on skipping chapters.

Grade 10 learner, Sinokuhle Mxatule (15), said they are doing their best trying to keep up with the syllabus.

“There’s no point of waiting for our teacher because there’s nothing new he is going to teach us than what he taught us last week,” she said.

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Grade 12 learner Nomhle Mdlulwa said since Grade 8 they have been struggling with the two subjects but they continue passing without knowing how.

She said most parents moved their children to other high schools outside Ngqamakhwe and learners who are still left at the school are from disadvantaged families who cannot afford to send them to other schools.

Mdlulwa said last year a university student from the community came to their rescue to teach them Physical Science. With the re-opening of her university, the helper left and they were back to square one.

“Last year we all failed maths we only passed Physical Science after we received help from outside,” she said.
School Governing Body member, Nokwakha Mafanya, said they have been begging the department for the past nine years to remove the teacher but were always refused.

She said there was a time when parents took a decision to fire the teacher by themselves but the ECDOE brought him back.

“This is an ABET teacher and he made it clear that he was not trained for the two subjects and he does not understand them,” she said.
According to Nokwakha the teacher was hired by a former principal as a temporary teacher while they were waiting for ECDOE to provide a qualified teacher but the ECDOE later made him permanent.

“Even today he is not here, I asked the principal – he said he left without his approval. In January he was in Gauteng on his personal issue” said Nokwakha.

Head of Equal Education in the Eastern Cape Luzuko Sidima said it is not rare for a teacher to teach a subject that he/she was not trained for. For an ABET-qualified educator to be teaching high school, however,  they say is unusual.

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“To be honest this is the first time I heard of such, usually we are told of teachers who are forced to teach subjects they are not trained for. It was going to be better if he was trained to teach these two subjects at ABET level,” he said.

ECDOE spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said labour relations is investigating the teacher and if found guilty he will face poor performance charges.
He said in the meantime Grade 11 and 12 learners will be sent to a nearby school that has been performing better than in previous years and ECDOE will provide accommodation and school nutrition for these learners.

“There’s a task team that is busy finalising the process of moving these learners,” he said.

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