No school subsidies, but books balance

2008-12-11 00:00

WHILE the provincial Education Department celebrates a clean bill in its financial affairs after receiving an unqualified audit report for the first time, some independent schools in the province, which qualify for government subsidies, said they couldn’t pay teachers after they had not received their subsidies for this quarter.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, some of the schools affected said they have been told by the governance directorate, which handle subsidy payments on behalf of the Education Department, that there is no money for them since it has overspent by R4 million for 2007/08.

Shool officials said they don’t understand how this could be, since the money should have been budgeted for.

One school owner, who did not want to be named, said their daily operation relies on the government subsidy.

“Our schools are structured to accommodate poor children who don’t have a place in public schools. Our fees are R5 000 for the whole year, but we still need to do everything. That includes salaries, pension and medical aid for teachers.

“People are getting ready for the festive season, but as we speak, I have not been able to pay my staff.”

What makes matters worse, school officials said, is that they were not told it was possibile the subsidy would not be paid, and they could not make alternative plans.

“We have had to phone find out what was happening … we have being pushed from pillar to post only to be told that there is no money. And since the department of Education is non-committal, the bank is refusing us an overdraft,” said one official.

The financial director of another school said they have been forced to fasten their belts even tighter this year as they have not received payments for the last two quarters.

“We are so accustomed to receiving three payments every year, but this year we received one. A lot of things had to be put on the back burner. We have barely had enough for day-to-day expenses … ”

Department spokeswoman, Mbali Thusi, said that independent schools would receive pay-outs, but she could not say by when.

sphumem@witness.co.za

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