'The Educator Assistant Initiative was supposed to bring us financial freedom, yet it's brought us more depression'

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"Getting paid has been an issue since we started in January. We have not received our first pay until March." Photo: Getty Images
"Getting paid has been an issue since we started in January. We have not received our first pay until March." Photo: Getty Images

According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the National Presidential Youth Employment Initiative, commonly known as the Basic Education Employment Initiative, received more than 868 000 applications from young people when the initiative started.

Of the more than 320 000 successful candidates, 67 per cent were Education Assistants, and 33 per cent were General School Assistants, the DBE revealed.

When these young people started working at schools, they were excited to provide for themselves and their families. They worked tirelessly only to receive no payment for the work they've done.

Parent24 has received many messages from unpaid EAs and GAs stating their issues. See some of the responses below:

"Getting paid has been an issue since we started in January. We have not received our first pay until March, which was for February, and they paid us an amount of R3500. The second payment (in April) for March was R3430 because they deducted UIF, and to my understanding, it was deducted for both our first and second payment," one EA wrote to Parent24.

Another emailed us, "We thought we would have been paid for April when schools had closed, but we did not. Instead, we waited an entire month for our outstanding payments, which was supposedly for January, April and May. We took it up to the principal, but we were told to take it up to the department. We were eventually paid (1 June 2021) for May only. When we were told that we would get paid for all outstanding amounts."

"We were told that they would pay us day by day for the rest of the amounts. So we are concerned when it comes to getting paid, will it continue to go on like this when our contracts are extended?" wrote a GA.

One reader furiously shared on our social media, "this initiative was supposed to bring us financial freedom, and yet it's just brought us more depression."

"My son worked at one of the schools in Uitenhage and did not receive some of his monies. They still owe him R1500," wrote one parent.

Read: Teacher assistants are not happy about DBE non-payment 

Parent24 spoke to the Elijah Mhlanga, Head of Communication at the Department of Basic Education, asking for feedback via email but there was no response.

In our previous communication with Mhlanga, he said that "the majority of the more than 319,000 education and general assistants have been paid" leaving many EAs and GAs unaccounted for, which he said was an 'isolated case', and would be dealt with separately.

Many of these students who were not paid said that they signed the contracts in their respective schools from December till the end of April. The DBE agreed that the programme started in December 2020 and ran until the end of April 2021.

The DBE also said that it is aware of some provinces that have published recruitment adverts for education assistants, such as in Limpopo and Gauteng, but stated that these initiatives are not linked to the Basic Education Employment Initiative.

When will these outstanding payments be made? It remains to be seen. 

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