South Africa News

Hundreds of teachers’ personal information leaked online

The personal details of hundreds of teachers who applied to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education for a concession because they were deemed vulnerable during the Covid-19 health pandemic due to age and comorbidities, has been leaked and splashed on social media sites.

Teacher unions are now threatening to take legal action against the department.

Most of the teachers who had their information compromised are from the Pinetown district.

The information leaked includes the circuit teachers report to, their employee numbers, identity numbers, salary grades, ages, and the type of concession granted.

The report describes how each of the teachers whose applications had been given the nod would be accommodated.

It specifies who would be allowed to work remotely and whose interaction with pupils would have to be curtailed.

It also details the names of teachers who have to stay home under 100% isolation.

On Monday, the department said it would launch an urgent investigation into the leak, which had violated the rights of its employees.

The Mercury has seen the leaked report, titled “Report on co-morbidities approved”, which contains the names and details of hundreds of teachers.

About 6 000 teachers across the province applied for the concession not to attend school. However, it is still unclear how many were approved.

Last week, schools in the Phoenix area complained that two weeks after all grades resumed classes, they still had not received substitute or additional teachers.

A teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was aware of the leaked report.

He said teachers who had applied for the concession were to date still waiting for a formal reply from the department.

“To make our identity numbers public is totally out of order. In that list there are close to 900 names, which means more than 900 such documents could be misused for illegal means.

“The document should have only had the names of the teachers and schools,” he said.

“We are not sure whether these names (on the list) are inclusive of the teachers who are 60 and above, but are without any ailments,” said the teacher.

Educators Union of South Africa (Eusa) warned that it would sue the department and the Pinetown district office over the leak.

Siphiwe Mpungose, the union’s general secretary, said they were alerted to the security breach by their members on Saturday.

He said members were concerned as the list, which contained a lot of personal information, was already being shared on social media.

Mpungose said the release of this information violated the Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013 and doctor-patient confidentiality.

He claimed that the list had even provided details of the illnesses that put the teachers at risk.

“We are going to sue the department, and the Pinetown district will be named as the second respondent in the matter because most of the people who are affected come from that district,” said Mpungose.

“It is quite clear that all the information was leaked from the Pietermaritzburg head office. This has severely compromised the teachers and could lead to them becoming victims of crime as every detail needed by a criminal is in that document.

“It is very concerning that the department has failed to protect the personal information of their staff members, which is something they are obligated to do by law,” said Mpungose.

He said they were concerned that even the medical records of some teachers were made public, adding that this violated the explicit protection of medical information that people were entitled to by the Constitution.

“To have such a breach is a clear indication that we are dealing with a department that simply does not care about its staff members,” he said.

Nomarashiya Caluza, the SA Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary, said they were not aware of the list but would be seeking further information from the department.

“To release the personal details of employees like that is risky, their ID numbers, that leaves them vulnerable to acts of criminality.”

Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said they became aware of the issue when they received a notice from Eusa that stated that it intended to sue the department over the leak.

“As the department, we have instructed our internal risk control and IT to investigate how this information got out of the department and based on their findings we will take action accordingly.”

-The Mercury

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