A GROUP of about 450 disgruntled teachers in the North West have threatened to boycott the marking of Grade 12 learners’ exam scripts.
Teachers who were hired as markers by the provincial Department of Education said the lack of basic amenities such as flushing toilets and a shortage of running water at the Bethel High School marking centre in Coligny was behind their intention to down tools.
Markers said the centre was beset with power outages without prior notification. They complained that they had not bathed properly since their arrival on Sunday because their accommodation, located a stone's throw away from the marking centre, had no running water. They also complained about the poor condition of ablution facilities that did not flush, saying they were expected to carry buckets of water to the toilets.
Compounding their problems, they were forced to work in a crowded space where they were unable to observe physical distancing as required in terms of the Covid-19 protocols.
Many feared that their working environment could be a breeding ground for spreading Covid-19 infections.
The Bethel centre houses at least 450 markers, and is one of the biggest marking centres in the province, with more than 3000 Setswana exam papers to be marked there.
A frustrated marker, who asked not to be named, said: “Challenges that markers experience are water and toilets that did not flush. Markers are expected to carry buckets to the toilet. Electricity has been a problem since we arrived on Sunday.” Others expressed disappointment regarding empty promises by the school principal to attend to the challenges of water and electricity.
Pretoria News was told that the markers’ grievances were also taken up with the centre manager, but to no avail.
Markers said the general sentiment was that they should dump the marking of scripts and go back home on account of the low morale at the centre.
They claimed the Department of Education was made aware of the poor working environment at the centre, but had not done anything to fix it.
“David Moroeng from the department visited the centre this week to assess the situation. Moroeng just looked into the matter and said it would be okay. He was asked what the way forward was and he said teachers should be patient.
He further said anyone who did not want to stay here could go at any time,” another marker said.
Yesterday, department spokesperson Elias Malindi said officials were dispatched to assess the situation at the centre. “As a department, we are aware of the challenges experienced at the school. We have requested the school governing body to procure pressure pumps, water dispensers, JoJo tanks and to fix the electricity at the school.”
He said a team of plumbers was repairing the ablution facilities.
Regarding claims that markers were forced to work in a crowded space, where they were unable to observe social distancing, Malindi said: “We are following the standard operating procedures at all times in all our marking centres.”
He said the department yesterday sent a team led by the deputy director-general, Dr Shadrack Mvula, to meet with the governing body and to procure the materials needed at the centre.
Malindi said the matter of an official allegedly telling markers who didn’t want to stay there “they can go at any time” had been dealt with “internally”.
On Wednesday, Education MEC Mmaphefo Matsemela said the safety of markers would be ensured “during this time of Covid-19”.
She also expressed optimism that the marking of 612 115 scripts, with the appointment of 3 588 markers, would be concluded on December 19 as planned, after it started on Wednesday.
“The marking process will be concluded on Sunday, December 19. We have secured 20 marking centres which are in all four districts, and we have ensured that markers are safe during this time of Covid-19,” she said.