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Durban - Newly-appointed KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni is getting no sympathy from the powerful teacher union Sadtu, which expects her to hit the ground running by addressing some of the outstanding issues in the province’s education department.
The union – which recently embarked on a go-slow – said it wanted Nkonyeni to address some of the pressing issues raised by the union.
These include a demand for a refund of money docked during the teacher strike of 2010 and the filling of vacant posts in the department.
Sadtu provincial secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, said workers in the department were owed some R400 million, and this needed to be addressed urgently.
“It is unfortunate that she comes to the department at a time when our patience is thinning. She is not a new kid on the block, having served as health MEC and having done a good job as Speaker of the Legislature. She is really capable of hitting the ground running and we are not going to entertain any excuses,” said Mathonsi.
Issues Sadtu wants Nkonyeni to address include a rural allowance for teachers, filling some 800 vacancies for subject advisers, and to set out the post provisioning norms for support staff such as clerks and security guards at schools.
Sadtu also had advice for Nkonyeni, saying she should build on the strong foundation laid by her predecessor, Senzo Mchunu.
She should also continue to work with all the stakeholders, including the unions, said Mathonsi.
“It would be a sad day for education if she would be like the Anglican Church,” which, he said, had decided to make some unfortunate statements.
Mathonsi was referring to a statement by an Anglican Church synod which lambasted Sadtu for what it said were destructive strikes and stay-aways.
The synod – the church’s highest legislative body – also took a resolution calling on all Anglican teachers to either transform the union into a body that truly served education, or resign from it.
The ANC urged all stakeholders in education to work with Nkonyeni, saying her appointment was part of strides being made to strengthen the provincial government.
“The ANC is optimistic that Nkonyeni will continue to elevate education to its rightful place, to improve the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools, which is something that we regard as of paramount importance to our country’s advancement,” said Sihle Zikalala, ANC provincial secretary.
But opposition parties criticised Nkonyeni’s appointment, with the DA saying that it was a sign of the ruling party’s moral bankruptcy.
DA spokesman on education, Tom Stokes, pointed out that Nkonyeni’s term as Health MEC was characterised by massive over-expenditure and that she was later accused of corruption in what became famously known as the Amigos trial.
Charges against Nkonyeni have since been withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority. The DA had gone to court to try to force the authority to release its reasons for deciding not to prosecute Nkonyeni.
“In the absence of a suitable candidate within his current caucus, the DA would have hoped that the premier would have looked to national ranks for a stronger alternative than Nkonyeni,” Stokes said.
The IFP said it did not want to prejudge Nkonyeni, adding that only time would tell if she was suitable for the position.
“Education needs strong and focused leadership, in order to improve the image of education in the province and to improve management, curb corruption, improve matric results,” the IFP said, adding that there was a need to reinstate professionalism.