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Motshekga withdraws teacher rural allowance scheme

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Image: Masi Losi

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Image: Masi Losi

Published May 20, 2022

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has scrapped the allowance scheme introduced in 2008 to address the problem of teachers shunning rural schools.

She has published the notice indicating that the incentives for rural teachers have been withdrawn effective from April 1.

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Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told The Star yesterday that Motshekga decided to do away with the allowances due to a myriad challenges, which include funds.

“Although the policy was declared with good intentions, it has proven to pose many substantive challenges,” he said.

“(These) relate to, among others, the funding for the incentives, 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 and providing support thereof.”

The allowances added about 10% to the salaries of teachers in rural schools. But over the years, teachers in some provinces have had to resort to courts to compel the provincial education departments to pay up.

Rural areas-based teachers in Limpopo received a real shock last November when the province’s Education Department informed them of its decision to stop the incentive from January 1, 2022.

The department blamed the decision on budget cuts that left it scrambling to find an additional R1 billion for the salaries of all teachers in the province.

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It was compelled by a court order in January to reverse the decision that affected about 6 000 teachers.

The Labour Court found that the provincial department’s head, Onica Dederen, had no powers to “unilaterally” terminate the payment of a rural incentive determined by the minister in terms of national legislation.

Mhlanga told The Star that Motshekga used her prerogative to cancel the allowances. “Due to the perpetual implementation challenges, the minister exercised her rights … to withdraw the policy gazetted on 18 January 2008.”

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He said teachers unions were informed about the decision. “The matter was brought to the attention of the unions at the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) where all the unions are represented.

“As indicated, the minister exercised her right to withdraw the policy.”

Acting president of the National Teachers Union (Natu), Sibusiso Malinga, said unions were not consulted on the decision.

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“The employer came to say the minister is thinking of cancelling (rural incentives). We asked why she would do that,” he told The Star.

“They were so arrogant. They said, ‘remember, it’s a prerogative of the minister’. We asked that if it’s the prerogative of the minister, why then bring the matter to the labour organisations?

“They claimed that it’s a consultation. How do you consult on your own prerogative? That is why I’m saying unions were just told. It was not negotiated,” Malinga said.

Natu was disappointed by the decision, Malinga said. “I don’t believe that this is an issue of money, but an irresponsible department.

“You cannot just cut rural incentives if they were assisting our learners to have educators. Remember, maths and physical science teachers are few.

“Removing the rural incentive means they can opt for jobs in urban areas. There’s no teacher who likes working under hard conditions.”

@BonganiNkosi87

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