File picture: Gcina Ndwalane.

Pietermaritzburg - Teachers unions have welcomed the appointment of Kwazi Mshengu, the chairperson of the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal, as the new education MEC in the province but the unions have wasted little time in challenging him to whip the department back into shape.

Mshengu was sworn-in on Monday as the successor to Mthandeni Dlungwane, who had held the position from 2014.

Thirona Moodley, CEO of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) in KZN, said that they are confident that in Mshengu, Premier Sihle Zikalala has appointed a person who is up to the challenges prevalent in education in the province.

“KZN is the largest education department in the country with more than 6 000 schools and over 107 000 employees just in the education department alone and this comes with budget and infrastructure challenges.

“We have issues regarding teacher attendance at schools and other labour matters require attention. We are optimistic with his appointment, we view it as an MEC who will be up to the challenges that face the province, we are willing to extend our help to the MEC and be fully cooperative in whatever project he wants to undertake,” Moodley says.

She said that would like Mshengu to engage with labour frequently so that he hears what labour has to say because they believe that they can add value to the administration of the department.

“We would also like to see the MEC dealing with the food nutrition programme in schools because it has been fraught with allegations of corruption and we would like to see all of this cleaned up.

“We have also been listed as one of those provinces which is high up with regards to the selling of teacher posts, so there’s a lot of clean up that has to be done in the department. We are hoping that this MEC is going to prioritise those things,” Moodley said.

Alan Thompson, President of the National Teachers’ Union (NATU) meanwhile, said that top on Mshengu’s list of priorities should be instituting investigations into how funds are spent in the department since the budget doesn't meet all the needs yet every year it gets the biggest chunk of both national and provincial budgets.

“However, the new MEC should not be oblivious to other equally pressing needs within the sector, including the non-payment of NSNP suppliers on time, funding of learners without ID’s and the sanitary programme that previously escalated the budget.

“He also needs to attend to schools that were unfairly stripped of their section 21 and function C status, and the 30% of the schools budgets for norms and standards are not being received and the payment of rural allowances has some inconsistencies,” Thompson said.

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