Mpumalanga education department fails to pay contract teachers

Some contract teachers are furious after the Mpumalanga education department has not paid them 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 department of taking them from pillar to post whenever they enquire about their salaries. One of the affected teachers, Zwelithini Fakude, who teaches mathematics and sciences-related subjects, shared his frustration with Sunday World. “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.

“Whenever we enquire, 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 have not received any salary.”

Fakude said the situation had forced him to downgrade his standard of living as it has been hard to keep up without an income. He added 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 instalment. 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 department’s failure to pay contract teachers appears to affect other teachers.

A salary advice seen by Sunday World confirms that one of the teachers transferred from Lamulelani to another school received his salary for the first time a few months ago.

Before he was transferred, there were seven unpaid contract teachers. When contacted for comment, 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 in April.

“Since the school was destroyed, the learners have been learning under a tree and using pit toilets.”

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 a 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. 

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