Outraged Durban teachers have rubbished a government advertisement that appeared in weekend newspapers setting out what the Department of Basic Education says they will earn after the latest salary offer.
But while a Department of Basic Education spokesperson insisted the figures quoted were "absolutely correct", as they included the latest and "final" 7 percent increase offer, local teachers maintained they were still "misleading".
"Even if that 7 percent increase is accepted by the unions, we have worked out that we still won't get what's being quoted," said one teacher last night.
Another added: "Our salaries are shocking and any parent reading this advertisement will wonder why some teachers are striking as they will think we are in the money, when we are not."
The two teachers, together with colleagues from a central Durban school, invited the Daily News to inspect their salary slips.
Now, one who is angry about the full-page advertisement issued by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, says she intends contacting a lawyer to get the salary the department has advertised that she will be getting, should the increase be accepted.
"I am a single mom and battling. After 20 years in the job and with three degrees, I gross R15 267 and my take-home pay is R6 243," she said.
"Even with the 7 percent increase, and bearing in mind the value of the benefits I get, I believe I will still be R81 000 a year short of the R287 324 salary package for someone with my experience being quoted in the advertisement."
The advertisement said a newly qualified teacher could now expect a salary package of R229 790, including benefits like housing, medical aid, pension and a 13th cheque.
Unlike thousands of their colleagues across the country, the Durban teachers who spoke out on Monday on condition of anonymity, chose not to strike.
However, after the school received an anonymous telephone call warning of possible intimidation yesterday, some chose to go home early. Pupils at their school had been advised to stay away after disruptions at a nearby school last week.
But although they will report for work on Tuesday, some said they knew why colleagues were striking. One teacher said that for the first time in her 35-year teaching history, she felt she should be striking.
"Despite all my experience, I take home R12 964, which is almost R3 000 more than a colleague in the same school with only four years experience," she said.
She taught in England for 14 years before returning home and said that if she had not managed to buy a property and a car with the money earned overseas, she would be "in a mess financially".
Another teacher, with 30 years' experience, said she currently earned R17 450 and cleared R8 441 after deductions.
According to the advertisement, she could expect to earn a basic of R235 698 a year, which would be worth R320 892 with benefits.
"If only! I have an old car and there is no way on our salaries we can even buy the cheapest brand new cars," she said.
Bheki Mthimkhulu, representing the All Educators' Students Christian Organisation (Allesco), and who teaches at Inhlakani High School in KwaMashu, felt the advertisement did not paint a realistic picture.
He said the strike would affect the quality of education and teachers would be blamed.
"We are sick and tired of speaking to a government that does not want to help us. Teachers are suffering," he said.
He said teachers would return to work when their demands for an 8.6 percent increase and R1 000 housing allowance were met. The government has offered a 7 percent increase and a R650 housing allowance, an increase of R150.
Confirming that the figures in the advertisement were "absolutely correct", Department of Education spokesman Granville Whittle said "the debate came in" when teachers looked at their payslips and saw the figure of their salary portion".
He said salary slips did not reflect the value of additional benefits, such as medical aid.
"If you ask a teacher how much the State contributed to his medical aid, I doubt you would get an answer."
He said teachers' salaries also depended on their qualifications - a teacher with matric and three years' training would earn less (R185 000) than one with matric and four years' training (R229 000). However, it was possible for two teachers with the same experience to be earning different salaries.
But it was "incorrect to say the figures quoted in the advertisement were misleading," he said.
However, a teacher at the school which called the Daily News said teachers understood the value of the State's contributions because they were reflected on payslips.
"The State contributes R1 014 a month for my medical aid (which means I pay R3 400 a month for myself and my daughter instead of R4 400), which is worth R12 000 a year, while the housing allowance I get is worth R6 000 a year."
"The money that they spent on those advertisements could have gone to the teachers' increases," she added.