EC education: pressure mounts as union stages sit-in

2012-06-12 07:57

Pressure is mounting on the Eastern Cape education department after teachers union Sadtu yesterday staged a sit-in at the department’s headquarters in Zwelitsha, King William’s Town, demanding the full reinstatement of all temporary teachers.

Officials scrambled to meet the disgruntled union’s provincial executive committee, which bust into the offices demanding a meeting with senior managers, including acting department head Mthunywa Ngonzo, national cabinet interventional leader Ray Tywakadi, and MEC Mandla Makupula.

But they were met by the two officials and other executive managers, and not Makupula, department spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said.

Accompanied by some of the affected educators, union representatives spent last night at education offices where they were set to meet basic education director-general Bobby Soobrayan, officials from national government, and Makupula today.

Pulumani added that his department, which was ordered by the courts as far back as 2011 to reinstate some 4 000 temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated in 2010, was not to blame for delays. In February, government again committed itself to re-appointing the teachers after the union had gone on a three-week go-slow, which severely affected teaching in the crisis-struck province.

“Yes there is a sit-in at the department, but we are all in agreement that we are not at fault here. It is provincial treasury which is withholding the money for this because we have made some savings accrued from vacant promotion posts (approximately 1 900) and our proposal was to be allowed to hire against those,” he said.

“Treasury says for us to move forward, education must fully implement this year’s post provisioning and that means teachers in excess must move to other schools where there is a need,” he added.

But Sadtu provincial media liaison officer Nolitha Mboniswa denied it was a sit-in, saying there had been a meeting scheduled for yesterday morning, which started at lunchtime.

She added the unions did not have proof of the department’s claimed reinstatement of 1 200 educators because they have not been paid.

“We haven’t seen even those numbers, and we are saying here, now that we don’t even have hope anymore. We just want this to happen today, I don’t think anything else will work,” she said.

The department is blaming Sadtu for standing in the way of the implementation of the 2012 post provisioning, which is also the subject of a court case at the Grahamstown High Court where the Centre for Child Law, an NGO, and several schools, seek to compel the department to implement the post provisioning. Yesterday two more Eastern Cape schools, Cape Recife and PJ Olivier, joined the application.

Meanwhile the DA, whose national leader Helen Zille once labelled Eastern Cape learners studying in the Western Cape “education refugees”, has also called for action to hire temporary teachers. Member of the provincial legislature (MPL) and shadow MEC for education Edmund van Vuuren said his party was calling for an urgent, special portfolio committee meeting “to demand concrete and final answers from the department of education regarding the payment and appointment of teachers in the province.”

“MPLs and the public at large are tired of the department’s confusing and dissimilar responses. It is time that the MEC, Mandla Makupula, and the superintendent-general, Mthunywa Ngonzo, come with precise answers.

“Morale among teachers is at an all-time low: relationships are on the rocks, stress levels are unbearable, banks are repossessing vehicles and homes and people have been blacklisted because they have not received their salaries. One wonders how the MEC and SG would cope without pay for six months,” he said.

Earlier yesterday scholar transport service providers, who are threatening to down tools over non-payment from the department, were also in meetings with the department.

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