The Mpumalanga Department of Education has fired contract teachers following a pay dispute dating back to June last year.
Sources at Lamulelani High School in Marite, Bushbuckridge, said the department ordered the six teachers to stop working with immediate effect or continue working as volunteers.
Last week, Sunday World reported that the teachers were finally paid portions of their outstanding salaries after the teachers went public about their 12 months of unpaid salaries.
The teachers were paid between three and four months’ wages last month after the Public Protector in the province launched an investigation into the matter and the department’s failure to rebuild the school’s burnt classrooms.
One of the affected teachers, Zwelithini Fakude, confirmed this week that the provincial education department instructed him to stop working immediately.
“Yes, it is true that we were told to stay at home or continue to work as volunteers. They told me the money that they paid me was compensation for the service that I rendered,” said Fakude, who said he was worried about his future.
Another teacher who did not want to be named, fearing reprisal, shared Fakude’s sentiment.
“It’s true what Fakude told you. I don’t have much to say.”
The Mpumalanga Department of Education confirmed that the six teachers should stop working or volunteer their services.
Spokesperson Jasper Zwane added that the department would not pay the affected teachers’ outstanding salaries because they rendered their services before the head of the department (HOD) approved their appointments.
He accused Lamulelani Secondary School Governing Body (SGB) of hiring the six teachers without the department’s permission.
“The school governing body of Lamulelani Secondary School appointed teachers against the department’s HRM directive number 24, which advised schools to prioritize the placement of teachers who are in excess in other schools and unemployed graduates who were bursary holders,” Zwane said.
“The SGB of Lamulelani Secondary School disregarded this directive, recruited, and caused six teachers to work without prior approval of the head of the department. By the time the documents requiring approval for the appointment of these teachers reached the office of the head of the department, these teachers had been working for months without formal appointments. For this reason, the said teachers could not be paid since there were no records of their appointment at the time.”
Zwane reiterated that the teachers would only be paid for the period when there was approval from the head of the department.
“Such payments have already been made. The position of the department is that there is no outstanding payment for these six teachers.”
According to Zwane, the Mpumalanga Department of Education takes no responsibility for the services rendered by the six teachers before the SGB obtained the necessary approval from the HOD.
However, the department did not say whether they would continue paying the teacher’s salaries from now on.
On allegations that the department failed to reconstruct the classrooms damaged by the protesters in 2016, Zwane confirmed that several classes, ablution facilities, and the administration block were destroyed.
However, he maintained that “it was not considered reasonable to fix the damaged structures, especially since the community had damaged them.”
He added that the reason for pit toilets at Lamulelani High School was that protesters vandalized proper toilets.
Zwane confirmed that principal Erick Malekane continued to receive his full salary without setting foot at the school, saying the SGB and some community members forced him out for questionable reasons.
“The principal was pushed out of the school after it was alleged that he was contributing to the dwindling number of learners as well as the underperformance of the school. We made repeated attempts to have the principal reinstated, but the allegations against him could not be substantiated. He is currently reporting daily at the circuit office and is assigned some tasks from time to time.”
SGB Chairperson Justice Mkhonto was not immediately available for comment as his phone was on voice mail.