KZN Education broke, salaries blamed

2013-03-15 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Education Department is officially broke, which could further affect the already compromised quality of teaching and learning in the province.

The KZN Legislature yesterday heard that the biggest government department in the province is operating on a budget deficit of R451 million.

“We are very poor,” said department head Dr Nkosinathi Sishi.

A number of programmes face the axe, vacant posts are to be frozen, school monitoring will come to a halt due to new travel restrictions and subsidies for poor schools will be slashed.

These were but a few harsh measures the department would be forced to take, Sishi said.

Computers and other equipment that were due to be supplied to some schools would no longer be a priority.

While the national guidelines recommend that provincial departments should pay R1 016 per pupil in no-fee schools, KZN can afford only R932 per pupil.

“We’re trying to move the money elsewhere,” Sishi added.

The department has also cancelled performance appraisals because it could no longer afford to reward good performance.

While Grade R teachers should earn R5 000 a month, the department can only afford R4 000.

Out of the R37 billion that was given to the department by Finance MEC Ina Cronjé for the 2013/14 financial year, close to R27 billion would go on salaries.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu offered an equally bleak outlook, saying that if his department were a private company, it would be running at a loss and would need to close shop.

Sishi said the department was where it was because of the occupation-specific dispensation (OSD) put in place when salary structures were revised.

He said that when the OSD was implemented nationally, teachers’ salaries had to be reviewed, and this had come after the department had appointed 5 000 new teachers in the 2007/08 financial year.

Sishi said teachers’ salaries had to be increased by about 15%.

“Then Treasury needed to put money back … they didn’t, but each year salaries of teachers needed to be revised.

“Since then we had a backlog … the department has been unable to pay all of them with the current budget it has,” he said.

Mchunu said it cost money to get good results, and that last year the department spent R2 million in the ailing Umkhanyakude District to make sure that the district improved its matric results by eight percent, having been the lowest performing district in 2011.

Allen Thompson, of the National Teachers’ Union, said the deficit was proof that the officials leading the department were clueless. He said the department had failed to prioritise.

“They’re running the department like they’re running a tuckshop. It’s different from other provinces and they can’t blame the OSD for their problems,” Thompson said.

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, said 25 000 additional teachers were needed in the province. Currently the province has about 76 000, he said.

Anthony Pierce, of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said they saw the crisis coming when the department involved itself in a number of expensive initiatives.

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