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Unions slam withdrawal of rural allowance for teachers

File Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

File Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 20, 2022


DURBAN - TEACHER unions have slammed the recent decision by Basic Education Minister Dr Angie Motshekga to discontinue the rural allowance for teachers, saying the move amounted to condemnation of pupils in these areas.

This follows the minister’s decision which was published in the Government Gazette last week. The rural allowance was established to attract teachers to work in rural schools, which were often ignored because of the many challenges, including lack of adequate infrastructure and the great distances to urban centres.

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The withdrawal of the incentive is likely to have a greater impact in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces, which have more rural schools compared to other provinces.

KZN has more than 6 000 schools, with a good number of them located in rural areas.

Teacher unions in KZN yesterday questioned the reasons behind the discontinuation, saying the minister should have consulted broadly before such a move.

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The National Teachers’ Union (Natu) said they were worried about the decision.

“Our understanding is that the incentive had an intended purpose, namely to ensure that rural learners were on equal par with their urban counterparts in terms of performance. We are left wondering whether this has been achieved,” said Natu’s Sibusiso Malinga.

“Because of the unilateral nature of the decision, we do not know what prompted it. It would help to get an audit of the schools that had this allowance in order to see how well they benefited out of this measure,” Malinga added.

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He said that while they were disappointed with the move, the union would continue to encourage its members to teach in rural schools.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said the move would have a long-term and negative impact on rural school pupils.

Naptosa KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley said they were equally disappointed that the move had not been discussed with teacher unions, but had been unilaterally applied.

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“This was an ill-conceived move and the unfortunate part is that it condemns learners from rural areas who will not get the teachers that teach certain subjects,” said Moodley.

“The decision may have been informed by finances, however it should have been properly canvassed with unions to see whether any compromise could be made. To just discontinue without warning was uncalled for,” she added.

One teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she had noted how schools, especially on the KZN North Coast, had benefited from the allowance.

“Graduates have no desire whatsoever to go to rural schools, citing lack of electricity and difficult conditions, but through this incentive one saw a number of them going to such schools,” said the teacher.

Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said yesterday that Motshekga decided to do away with the allowances due to myriad challenges, which included funds.

Other issues were the implementation by the provincial education departments; inadequate communication between the provinces, districts and schools; identification of posts to be incentivised; the distance between schools identified as rural and those that were not; as well as monitoring the implementation.

The allowances added about 10% to the salaries of teachers in rural schools.


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