It‘s back to school for temp teachers

Zandile Mbabela mbabelaz@avusa.co.za
THOUSANDS of temporary teachers across the Eastern Cape are set to return to their posts today after the provincial Education Department begrudgingly decided yesterday to comply with last week‘s court order to reinstate them.
However, national Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan admitted “there is no money to pay them” and said the provincial department would need to find an additional R800-million.
A total of 4471 teachers are expected to return to the posts they filled before their contracts were terminated last year because the department could not afford to keep them on for this year.
Soobrayan said the department was feeling the financial strain. “The provincial department will be dealing with this, so they‘ll have to approach the provincial Treasury,” he said.
However, department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said “systems are in place” to deal with the reinstatements and the money would be gathered from the department‘s coffers.
“We‘ve agreed to comply with the order and will therefore have to source the money somehow,” he said. “This will increase our financial burden as we were targeting to deal with the last financial year‘s over-expenditure of R800-million over three years.”
Judge Jannie Eksteen last week ruled for the interim reinstatement of the teachers while the court reviewed the merits of the department‘s decision to terminate their contracts. The department appealed the ruling, but lost.
Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwyserunie (SAOU) president Chris Klopper said: “We‘re grateful the department is complying and that these teachers can return to their posts immediately.”
Port Elizabeth lawyer Michael Randell said his clients – SAOU, the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools and the Westering High and Primary schools – were delighted at the department‘s decision to “come to the party”.
“This was an initiative that my clients took on for education in the province as a public interest exercise,” he said.
Bevan Boggenpoel, a temporary teacher at Bethelsdorp Road Primary School, said he was “more than relieved” at the news. “This is great news because the past couple of months have been hard.”
Boggenpoel, who continued teaching despite the axing because of his passion for the profession, said he had entered into an informal agreement with the school governing body to continue teaching for a small stipend.
“I am happy that now at least I‘ll get a proper salary, because although the SGB paid us it was not much and I could only afford the bare necessities like food.”
Pulumani said there had been a misunderstanding regarding the actual number of teachers who had been fired.
The “actual number” of contracts terminated was 4471, and not 6282 as Randell previously said, he said.
Randell said he and his clients were “not in a position to argue or try to verify that number”.
“If the department says that is the number, then we accept that in good faith,” he said.

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