Non-teaching staff, mainly responsible for the feeding scheme programme at Umnqophiso Primary School are up in arms over claims of non-payment.
They allege it has been two months since they last received salaries, and school authorities are telling them to “relax”.
With schools closing yesterday, Wednesday 15 December, on Friday 11 December the irate employees downed their cooking utensils and promised mayhem if they were not paid by Monday 13 December.
They said the non-payment negatively affected their end-of-year plans. According to the group, things changed after a switch from cheque payment to bank deposits in October. They claimed they are still waiting for their October salaries.
Thembeka Gushu, a mother of three, told City Vision the non-payment has inconvenienced the group a great deal. “No matter how small the money we get paid, we are able to budget with it,” she said, adding that at the start of the lockdown they fought for their salaries to be paid directly to them.
Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse.
“We are already in December and are still waiting to be paid,” Gushu said. “This hurts a lot.” She added that children’s lay-byes have been affected. “The principal tells us to ‘relax’. How can we relax when they get their salaries every month and we are getting nothing?”
Another parent, Nomsangaphi Ntlintli, said all she and the other non-teaching staff wanted was to have their money paid to them.
“At home we can’t sleep properly because of this money,” she said. “I have had my TV and DStv taken away because I could no longer afford it.”
Some of the women said they took loans from the loan sharks, commonly known as oomatshonisa because of their exorbitant interest rates, just to survive.
Xolani Diniso, a community leader, said he intervened in the matter after it was brought to his attention.
“As people who advocate for workers’ rights, when we heard about this victimisation at the school we had to stand up for these parents who render such an important service to our community,” he told City Vision at the school premises. “Our duty is to ensure they are paid the money due to them, because we all know it is festive season and they have children to look after.
Diniso said the matter had been kept under carpet for a “purpose”. He said during their intervention they were told it would ruin the school’s reputation.
“The people who are worried about the school’s reputation are those who are well off,” he said. “But what are they thinking, when there are parents out there who depend on this money that they are not paying? All we want is to see these parents being paid, and nothing else.”
Bronagh Hammond, director of communications at the Western Cape education department (WCED), told City Vision the department not aware of the matter.
“The stipend for the volunteer food handlers is paid in tranches of three months and deposited into the school’s account,” she said. The matter has never been reported to us.”
Hammond said the matter would be investigated. “This will need to be investigated, as the volunteer food handlers are to sign a payment form to acknowledge receipt of their money. The principal is the accounting officer of the school. The WCED transferred the money to the school’s account. An investigation will therefore be conducted.
After preliminary investigation, Hammond said: “The circuit manager has informed the WCED she was made aware of the payment issues reportedly at the school. The delay in payment was the result of non-approval by the SGB . They refused to approve the payments. The Circuit Manager has intervened and the food handlers are receiving their stipends in the next 24 hours.”