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Do SA teachers really earn R460k per annum on average?

Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 27, 2020


Johannesburg - Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his Budget Speech on Wednesday afternoon to mixed reactions and applause, and one of the claims he made had many startled. 

The minister’s imposition of a R2.89 Sin Tax on 750ml whiskey spirits left Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe sweating, but another claim he made about teacher’s salary left many on Twitter perplexed. 

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In announcing personal income tax reliefs for the new financial year, Mboweni used the example of a teacher earning on average R460 000 per annum. He said this teacher would receive a tax relief of around R3400 for the 2020/21 financial year. 

“To support growth, we propose no major tax increases. Indeed, there is some real personal income tax relief. This Budget means that a teacher who earns on average R460 000 a year, will see their taxes reduced by nearly R3 400 a year,” Mboweni said in his Budget Speech.

%%%twitter">@tito_mboweniwho inserted this in your Speech?

"This Budget means that a teacher who earns on average R460 000 a year..."

This is statement is misleading. Many teachers are Post level 1 and are nowhere near that salary. Even HODs some don't earn this. #Budget2020

— Lukhona (@LukhonaMnguni)

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%%%twitter">@tito_mboweni #BudgetSpeech2020

— Theresa Mallinson (@tcmallinson)

Mboweni has been accused of misleading the public with the inference to teachers earnings. Teacher unions have rejected the assertion that teachers earned an average of R460 000 per annum, adding that it was ‘impossible’. 

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Relying on adjusted salary data for teachers as communicated by National Treasury in July last year, we will attempt to unpack how much different school-based teachers, heads of departments, deputy principals and principals earn. South Africa has more than 25 000 public schools, and it employs over 400 000 teachers in the public service. 


The data shows that Post Level 1 school teachers - which are the majority in the sector and the lowest earners, earn between R210 000 per annum and upto R618 000. Post Level 1 teachers include underqualified teachers, teachers, senior teachers and master teachers. There is a distinction in the remuneration of teachers, with those underqualified with diploma qualifications for example, being paid with a ‘Relative Education Qualification Value (REQV)’ of 13.  

Teachers on REQV 13 earn the least, earning between the minimum amount of R210 000 and up to R465 000. Qualified teachers, typically those with a four year degree and REQV 14, earn between a minimum of R278 000 and up to R618 000. 

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Senior teachers on REQV 13 earn between a minimum of R330 000 to R465 000, while those on the REQV 14, earn between R330 000 to R618 000. Master teachers on REQV 13 earn between R387 000 to R465 000, while those on REQV 14, earn between R387 000 to R618 000. 


For teachers who are part of the school management teams - these include heads of departments, deputy principals and principals, the minimum salaries are typically higher. A department head teacher hired on Post Level 2, earns between R346 000 to R859 000 per year, while a deputy principal on Post Level 3, earns a minimum R413 000 and a maximum of upto R930 000. 


Salaries of principals range between a minimum of R346 000 per annum, and go as high as just over R1m per year. The size of a school and the school population is factored when determining the salary of a principal, with principals heading smaller schools typically being paid less. 

The lowest paid principals, referred to as level one principals - these are schools with under 200 pupils, are paid a minimum of R346 000 and a maximum of R741 000 per annum. Level two principals are found at schools with under 450 pupils, and they are paid a minimum of R413 000 and up to R859 000 per year. 

Level three principals are found at schools with under 750 pupils, and they are paid as low as R494 000 to a high of R987 000. Level four principals at schools with over 1000 pupils are paid a minimum of R570 000 and up to just over R1m. Level five principals, those at schools with over 1400 pupils, earn a minimum of R697 000 and up to over R1m, per year. 

** All figures do not take into account benefits such as medical aid, pension and 13th cheques. 

Several calls and SMSes were made to Treasury and Basic Education spokespersons, but they did not respond.  

Speaking to IOL on Thursday, Basil Manuel, the executive director at the National Professional Teachers Organisation (Naptosa), said Mboweni’s R460 000 figure was ‘ridiculous’ and ‘impossible’. 

“That figure is wrong, anyone hearing that will think that teachers are earning these fantastic salaries and that is not the case. Teachers are now going to start phoning us and saying are we on the wrong salary notch,” he said. 

Manuel said the majority of teachers in the public service were Post Level 1 teachers and explained that it was very difficult for teachers to aggressively move up in salary notches. He said typically, it took 10 years to move up 10 salary notches. 

“Getting a new qualification does not change your notch. No one is going to leap from a notch of 163 to 200 overnight, unless if you are (politically) connected, you move from being a teacher to a deputy director,” he said.  

He said teachers getting new qualifications were rewarded with a once off payment benefit for upskilling themselves from the department, but he conceded that the teachers did become promotable.  

“We have teachers with PHDs that are on Post Level 1, not everyone wants to be a principal, not everyone has the administrative patience that principals are required to, but they should be remunerated better, that is something we need to improve on,” he said.  

Mugwena Maluleke, the secretary general of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), said teachers were paid closer to an average of R280 000, not R460 000. He said the country had eradicated unqualified teachers who used to be hired under the REQV band of 10, 11 and 12. He said the majority of teachers in the system were employed on REQV 14 - which typically meant they had a degree. 

“The teachers are paid at R280 000 on average, I think the minister may have been referring to a baseline,” he said. 

He added it was impossible to have an average of R460 000 for teacher’s remuneration as there were over 25 000 schools in the country, which equated to 25 000 principals and an estimated 50 000 deputy principals. 

“So even if we say each of the principals earns R600 000 and we compute the deputy principals at R500 000, that would still not bring the average for teachers to R460 000, it is impossible when the majority of teachers are on Post Level 1,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Sadtu said they would not back down after government announced plans to renege on a three year wage agreement for the public service. 

“The employer will have to think seriously about the implications and unintended consequences of what they are saying. They want to undermine the freedom of associations as a fundamental right. 

“If there are problems, they must talk to us in time and not wait for two months for the adjustments to kick in,” he said.  

Maluleke said principals and deputy principals had for the past two years received no salary increments after the unions compromised during negotiations in a hope that the department would hire more teachers, nurses and police in the public service.  

“We need more people to be employed. It is a shame that we have people dying on stretchers at hospitals and clinics because our nurses are overburdened and at schools we have increasing class sizes. 

“For two years our deputy and principals get no increases. We sacrificed and they did not hire people to address the issues. What about our sacrifices that we have made,” said Maluleke.  

Manuel said instead of inflating the average remuneration of teachers publicly, teachers deserved to be paid fairly for what they endured at school. “Many teachers are at hard-to-teach schools, they run the gauntlet everyday, not only at schools, but outside of school they may have to deal with very difficult parents, and that makes life extremely difficult.  

“It is heartbreaking when you find teachers in their 50s and they say they are burnt out, they can’t cope anymore. They look at the money they get and they say it’s not worth it anymore. 

“If life was good and parents were supportive, life would be a little easier - South Africans are getting a lot of good teachers on the cheap,” said Manuel. 


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Tito Mboweni