Education in fix over unpaid bursaries

2014-01-13 00:00

THE sheriff of the court last Thursday attached more than 700 vehicles belonging to the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department after they failed to deliver on an undertaking to pay bursaries for prospective teachers.

The bursaries were allocated to 1 000 students at the Sants Private Higher Education Institution at their various campuses.

But the province’s failure to pay means that they are indebted to Sants, a private teacher training college, for a total of R36 million.

Sants, previously known as the South African National Tutor Services, offers a four-year bachelors in education course for teachers in the foundation and intermediate phases, managing director for Sants, Jaco Bernard told Rapport, The Witness’s sister publication.

It is offered at nine centres in KZN, including the rural districts of ­Pongola, Jozini, Nongoma, ­Vryheid, Ulundi, Dundee, Greytown, ­Ixopo and Empan­geni.

Bernard said the Pietermaritzburg high court on November 26 made a ruling that the department was responsible for payment of the bursary holders’ tuition fees. But Sants’ lawyer Tebogo Malatji said this ruling was ignored.

Bernard said despite the vehicles being attached, the department last week continued to harass its students, encouraging them to cease their studies at Sants.

According to Bernard, the department in October 2012 identified 1 260 underprivileged students for the teacher training course at Sants.

The first payment of the total bursary amount of R30 million was already due in January last year.

Bernard said despite the non-payment, they allowed the students to continue their studies as it was in their best interest. In total, 90% of the students have successfully completed their first year.

After the high court ruling in November — that the bursary agreement was valid and binding as long as the students complete their studies successfully — Sants and the department allegedly reached an agreement whereby the department got till December 17 to pay the monies owed.

This never happened, Bernard claims.

Despite numerous attempts to get comment from the department, none had been forthcoming.

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