More than 11 000 Eastern Cape teachers are in danger of losing their jobs because of a financial shortfall, the Weekend Post reported on Friday.
The newspaper reported that a proposal to fire the teachers next year because of a R3.4-billion shortfall was being considered by senior officials of the Eastern Cape education department, including MEC Mandla Makupula.
The department has to finalise next year's post allocation by Friday and opposition parties have urged the department to beg, borrow or make a deal to secure the money.
Education committee members said they had been told by superintendent-general Mthunywa Ngonzo that the department could potentially cut 11 287 (17.4 percent) of teaching posts from the provincial system for the 2013 school year because of a shortfall of R3.42-billion to fund the existing 64 752 teaching posts.
The possibility of firing thousands of teachers was first discussed at a heated meeting in St Francis Bay on 2 September - attended by Makupula and senior education staff - and again at the legislature's education committee meeting this week.
Education experts warned the likelihood of the department sourcing the funding was "minimal at best" and that the axing of teachers would invariably cause an "uproar" among parents.
While opposition parties and department officials said the department was considering the move, Ngonzo denied that it was discussed in Bhisho this week.
"There is no such thing. I never said that [in the Bhisho meeting]. The indication is that pupil numbers are going down and we know for a fact that there will be a budget cut," he said.
Ngonzo did concede that 10 proposals had been put forward regarding next year's teacher basket allocation as a result of budget constraints.
"The two critical driving factors are pupil numbers and budget availability."
He declined to go into detail about the proposals.
According to Democratic Alliance MPL Edmund van Vuuren, at the 2 September meeting in Cape St Francis, the issue of mass retrenchment was discussed at length.
"Senior officials from the department were there, including the MEC. There were a number of proposals put forward but the bottom line is that unless the education department finds the money by next Friday, these teachers could be without work," he said.
Education analyst Graeme Bloch said if the department went ahead with the axing it would spark a storm.
"Parents will be in uproar. It is a crazy, ridiculous and an unviable option."
The department has made little progress in complying with a Grahamstown High Court order to permanently fill more than 6000 vacant teacher posts by 2 November, having appointed 4402 teachers temporarily by 3 September.
This was the second deadline in the latest of a string of court orders against the beleaguered department, the Weekend Post reported.