EDUCATION Department head Mthunyawa Ngonzo has apologised to temporary teachers whose salaries had not been paid since the beginning of the year.
“The situation is untenable and it has been rectified as a matter of utmost urgency,” Ngonzo said in an affidavit to the Grahamstown High Court.
He was responding to an urgent application brought by about 25 temporary teachers from six schools in Grahamstown.
They said, in court papers, they were facing financial ruin as their salaries had not been paid since their appointment at the beginning of the year.
This had taken a high toll on them and their families. Some faced eviction from their homes and repossession of their furniture, while life insurance and other policies had lapsed as they could not afford to pay the premiums.
“The department sincerely regrets the extreme hardship and inconvenience this has caused and profusely apologises,” Ngonzo said.
Teachers told how they found it difficult to go to work in the morning for fear of bursting into tears or taking their frustration out on pupils.
“Each day that passes, the [department’s] non-payment of our salaries robs learners of enthusiastic educators,” they said in court documents.
Ngonzo said the department would pay the legal cost of the application and gave the assurance that all the teachers would be paid this week.
Director of the Legal Resources Centre which represented the teachers in their high court application, Sarah Sephton, yesterday confirmed all but two of the teachers had been paid their salaries with arrears.
But she said these payments excluded the 37% allowance temporary teachers were paid in lieu of state benefits.
The matter, which was to have been argued in the Grahamstown High Court yesterday, would be postponed.
However, Sephton said it would not be withdrawn until all teachers had been paid their salaries in full.
In a separate matter, Ngonzo last week spelt out in court papers the terrible state of affairs in the management of his department over the past 16 years.
The situation led to a complete administrative collapse and a systemic disintegration of the entire school system, including the non-payment of teachers.
He said the department was turning this around by reducing the 23 districts to eight districts, rationalising and realigning the 5742 schools in the province and closing smaller schools.
The dysfunctional human resources systems were being turned around and labour relations improved by including consequence management and accountability.