SOME contract teachers are furious after the Mpumalanga Department of Education failed to pay their salaries for more than a year.
Six teachers from Lamulelani High School in Marite, outside Hazyview, say they have been waiting in vain for their salaries. They accused the provincial education department of taking them from pillar to post whenever they enquired about their salaries.
One of the affected teachers, Zwelithini Fakude, who teaches mathematics and sciences-related subjects, shared his frustration with African Times.
“It is true that we are facing a difficult situation as the education authorities don’t want to pay us. I started teaching at the school in May last year, and I was told that I will receive my salary on the first of June, but that never happened,” Fakude said.
“Whenever we inquire, we are told that the salaries will be paid at the end of the month. For example, in May, we went to the department’s office in Bohlabela District, and we were told the same thing, which was that the money would be paid on the first of June, but today is July, and I did not receive any salary.”
Fakude said the situation had forced him to downgrade his standard of living as it had been hard to keep up without income.
He added that he was obliged to remove his children from the private school. Fakude said a colleague who was in the same situation had already lost her car after failing to pay the installment.
Kendrick Mashego is another unpaid teacher who is also struggling to make ends meet. He said he and his family were in a dire situation.
“The situation is bad, very bad. I don’t even know how to describe it. What they told you is true; we can’t afford to buy anything; just imagine without an income for a year while we are working,” said Mashego.
According to a letter written in November 2022 by the school management and the School Governing Body (SGB), they requested the Mpumalanga Department of Education to pay the teachers their outstanding salaries.
“We request the department to fast track the processing of the overdue process of the following unpaid educators. The problem of the said educators has been communicated with all the structures and sectors of the department. The circuit, district, province, and labour unions formation know of the issue at hand,” the letter read in part.
A well-placed source within the department has confirmed that, as required by the law, the department had given Lamulelani High School principal and SGB permission to employ the teachers after, “the department failed to get the educators for the profiled subjects.”
The Mpumalanga Department of Education’s failure to pay contract teacher salaries appears to affect not just the six teachers.
Salary advice seen by African Times confirms that one of the teachers who was transferred from Lamulelani to another school received his salary for the first time a few months ago.
Before he was transferred, the unpaid contract teachers were said to be seven.
When contacted for comment about the situation, Lamulelani High School Deputy Principal, Willie Mhlanga refused to comment on the ground that he was not allowed to talk to the media.
“I suggest you contact the department’s communication team in the province because they must interact with the media,” said Mhlanga.
About eight years ago, Lamulelani High School was torched by angry community members during a service delivery protest. When responding to the damages, the department announced that it had set aside R13 million to rebuild the school.
According to the sources, the construction of the school should have started this year in April.
“Since the school was destroyed, the learners have been learning under the tree and using pit toilets,” said the source.
Lamulelani High School SGB chairperson Justice Mkhonto said:
“At first, we went to the district offices to report this issue, but they did not give us straight answers, so a few weeks ago, we went to the provincial office to talk to the head of the department who promised us that the teachers will be paid soon but until today they never received salaries,” said Mkhonto.
Mkhonto said they would return to the provincial office next week to find out why the payments were not made.
South African Democratic Teachers Union( Sadtu) Provincial Secretary, Walter Hlaise, said the union was seriously concerned about the delays in dealing with the matter.
“The affected teachers have, for more than a year now, continued to teach at the school without remuneration while being dragged from pillar to post regarding their salaries. The union has lodged a dispute at the Education Labour Relations Council to compel the department to pay these salaries.”
Mpumalanga Department of Education spokesperson Jasper Zwane accused the school of allowing affected teachers to start work before the department finalised HR processes, which delayed payments.
“This resulted in a situation where documents to request for appointments of such teachers will reach the office of the HOD months after these teachers are in the schools teaching. Schools have the responsibility to recommend for employment and to seek the approval of the HOD before teachers can assume duties.”
“Upon the realization of such a trend, the Department issued a circular to direct schools from such a practice because it had the potential to cause irregular practice. The teachers you are referring to, fall within the category of those who worked in schools before their appointment by the Accounting Officer. Be that as it may, their issue is being looked into by the Departmental Human Resource Directorate,” Zwane said.