Unions meeting with premier exposes KZN education crisis
Topping the list of their concerns was the non-filling of teachers’ and office-based employees’ posts, and top management positions, some of which had remained vacant since 2006.
Critical management posts such as that of chief financial officer were yet to be filled. An additional concern was the resignation of the uMlazi district director. The uMlazi district is the province’s best-performing district.
Unions said many schools operated with skeleton staff.
The Daily News yesterday reported that Grades 1, 5, and 6 pupils at Quarry Heights Primary School had been without teachers since the start of the year, and all pupils had failed their first-term exams as a result. Teachers were forced to teach 50 pupils per class, and had to monitor the classes without help.
In addition, the National Teachers’ Union (Natu) had recently raised allegations of corruption in the distribution of sanitary pads at schools, procured at R109 million a year, which was among the reasons Mchunu had called the meeting.
The platform given to each union to raise concerns dominated the meeting, preventing the presentation of the matric exams intervention plan. Instead, the unions would be e-mailed the presentation to study and to make recommendations on whether they believed it would succeed in achieving the department’s projected 10% increase in matric passes.
The unions hit hard on department officials about the delays in paying money to schools, most of which was used to pay for stationery and books. Without this money, the Natu said, schools were forced to operate without funds for most of the academic year.
Allegations about the selling of teachers’ posts and racism at some Durban schools, as well as the mismanagement and misappropriation of funds, were raised by the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa).
Naptosa spokesperson Thirona Moodley said all the unions had raised similar concerns.
“The premier has heard it from the horse’s mouth. Although he tried to respond, it was not something we did not hear before. He did not have answers. While he seemed to have knowledge of some issues, he seemed to be hearing others for the first time. We are, however, optimistic that he will soon honour his promise to come back to us with feedback on the issues we raised.”
Bongani Ndamane, provincial secretary of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, said the non-payment of salary progression of Grade R teachers, coupled with the other issues, was an indication of the dire need for Mchunu to intervene by involving the Treasury.
The Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) agreed with complaints by other unions that communication with department head Vusumuzi Nzama’s office was difficult.
PSA shop steward Zinhle Manyoni said their inquiries and e-mails were not answered until they were elevated to the MEC’s office.
Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa referred The Daily News to Mchunu’s office but, despite numerous attempts, the premier’s office did not comment by the time of publication.