Teacher says she was fired for going blind

Department promises to investigate and asks for proof

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Photo of a woman
Zodwa Mtswane from Shakaville, Stanger, says she was fired from Gezwayo Secondary School in Mapumulo after she lost her sight. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

A 52-year-old teacher who lost her sight says the principal of the school fired her and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has done nothing about it. She says she was booted out without going through the proper procedures.

Zodwa Mtswane from Shakaville, Stanger, claims she was fired from Gezwayo Secondary School in Mapumulo after she became blind due to diabetes. This was in 2006. The principal has since left and GroundUp was unable to reach him.

Mtswane is now living with her mother in a low-cost house where she sleeps on the sofa or on the floor. She receives a social grant, but it doesn’t cover her expenses and costs of medication. She has three children.

“The department has been unfair in my case just because I turned blind. I only did one check-up with the department’s doctor and they fired me in a period of nine months after one check-up,” she says.

“I submitted my leave form on the first check-up as required by the department. Despite all of those submissions I was fired before time. I feel that my rights were infringed and that they treated me in that manner because I turned blind. I was not given enough chance to be checked thoroughly,” she says.

Mtswane says she reskilled herself with switchboard and telephone courses hoping the department could use her somewhere else.

“I have become a burden to my family … The house that I had bought was repossessed after failing to pay. I don’t have any benefits except for my pension fund that I received after being booted out. I sometimes go to bed on an empty stomach. What does this say about people living with disability in the Department of Education?” says Mtswane.

She said she had been in touch with two officials and had also gone to the Pietermaritzburg offices with her child. She was given phone numbers. She made repeated calls but officials were never available to help her. She eventually gave up.

She said she also contacted the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) in Durban, but they had not helped her either.

SADTU provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said she will drive to Mtswane’s home and get the full story. “If we discover that the teacher was forced [to leave] by the school or any other person, it is a serious case.”

She said when someone developed a disability “the union and the department works together in ensuring that the teacher remains employed”.

Spokesperson for the KZN education department Muzi Mahlambi said there was little the department could do. He said, “At the moment there is nothing as proof and what we want is proof … There should be something that went wrong between her and the school. It could be she did not submit what was expected from her or there is foul play from the school.”

TOPICS:  Disability Rights Education

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