Bad rap for foreign teachers in KZN

2015-06-25 12:50

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Durban - Teachers in several KZN schools claim that they have not been paid in months because they are not South African citizens.

The teachers, who were employed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education in the uMzinyathi District say they have been unable to support their families after their contracts were abruptly terminated in April. However, the department says the teachers were illegally recruited and it would be taking action against the responsible principals.

News24 spoke to three teachers who asked to remain anonymous. 

A 37-year-old Geography teacher said he was employed by the department in 2009 and problems began in January this year.

“We were told that we did not get appointment letters from the [education] HOD Nkosinathi Sishi. I think that the department is discriminating against us because we are foreign nationals and because they have managed to fill those posts with permanent local staff members,” said the Zimbabwean, who has three children.

‘No money’

The man, who earned R18 000, a month said the payment stopped in January and the teachers were informed in April that their services had been terminated.

“I have no money and my life is in shambles,” said the teacher.

He said about 60 teachers had been affected.

“The department employed us on a temporary basis and our contracts would be renewed yearly at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of each year we would work for some weeks or so before signing any official document but in the end, we would be employed and remunerated.

“By the time school closed for the first term in April we were still unpaid. When we returned to our schools a number of foreign educators were replaced by local teachers. I was personally replaced by a local educator on April 17.”

Demand for payment

The group eventually confronted the Human Resources department because they wanted answers.

“We asked them why did they allow us to work if they did not require our services, and why did they insist on approval letters this year as if we bought them.

"Since we rendered services and taught learners in the first term, why shouldn't we be paid so that we can move on with our lives and find other jobs? We know we are foreigners and we get contract employment, but our issue is simply a demand of payment for our services rendered,” he said. 

Another Zimbabwean teacher, a 46 year-old woman living in Johannesburg, said she has been struggling to provide food and has had to beg and borrow money from friends and family. “I still need to pay rent, school fees and medical fees for my 17-year-old daughter who is living with a chronic condition,” said the Natural Sciences teacher.

Services terminated

She said she was employed to fill in for a teacher at a combined school in 2011 in Msinga and when she returned to school for the second term, she was shown a circular from the district office addressed to all the principals.

“It said that any principal found using the services of a foreign national teacher will be held responsible for their remuneration. When we returned for the second term we were told that our services had been terminated.

“I honestly thought that it was because of the xenophobic attacks that had been taking place in the province, because that was at the peak of the attacks. We really do not know the real reason behind the terminations. We understand that they are not obliged to employ us but they have to pay us for the services rendered,” she said.

Another teacher, 38, residing in Tugela Ferry said he has been unable to travel to Zimbabwe to see his wife and children because he does not have money.

“I used to go home every three months. On Wednesday my landlord kicked me out of the room I was renting because I have not paid rent in months. I am currently living with friends. The people who are looking after my cattle back home told me that they want to leave because they have not been paid. I also can’t continue with my studies because I cannot pay the university,” said the Grade 8 teacher.

‘Principals to blame’

The KZN Department of Education blames the principals for illegally recruiting the teachers.

“The district manager was simply saying that anyone that was employed illegally cannot hold the department responsible. Proper procedures were not followed when those teachers were hired and that is why the district manager put a stop to the activity,” said spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi.

He said because services were rendered, the department would investigate their claims and attend to their matter administratively.

“We need to check whether those teachers were on the department’s pool or were they just taken in through the back door. I want to make it clear that the department did not terminate any contracts. The only person that hires and fires people in the department is Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, the HOD.

“The principals are to blame for this mess. The department cannot pay people who do not have a letter of appointment from the HOD. Those teachers were working illegally and we will be charging those principals,” said Mahlambi.

Read more on:    durban  |  xenophobia  |  education

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