Despite struggling because they’re not paid a decent salary and being four years into a legal battle in the Labour Court, a group of teachers at a community learning centre in Mpumalanga have not joined the national strike in the sector.
The manager of Rivoningo Community Learning Centre, Siphiwo Nqayi, said it was announced in 2015 that centres such as Rivoningo would be transferred from the department of basic education to the department of higher education and training in 2016.
Department of higher education and training directors informed the teachers that a new timetable with longer working hours meant they would no longer be part-time employees and their wages would be adjusted accordingly.
When the deadline came and went, they were informed the salary changes were being postponed, but they were still expected to work eight-hour days.
Before this, teachers’ working hours at Rivoningo were on average two hours a day and they earned between R1 000 and R3 000 net.
One teacher, who spoke to The Citizen anonymously, has matric and a teaching diploma and on his starting salary he took home just over R2 000, with a R1 333 housing allowance.
Five years later, he was working much longer hours and still earning the same amount.
Another teacher said he, his wife and four children were living in a one-room shack and surviving on R1 200 monthly for food, transport and school.
The teachers also claimed that no other province paid community learning centre staff so poorly.
After Nqayi disputed his salary at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, commissioner Solly Mashego issued an arbitration award to him ordering he be paid the same salary as other centre managers.
Nqayi vowed to take the matter to the Labour Court after the department was awarded a rescission.
The centre has 568 pupils, about half of whom are doing an adult literacy programme.
“The people we teach earn more than us after they pass,” quipped one teacher.
Nqayi added: “But we are not on strike. We have sympathy for the people we are educating so we decided to pursue it in the Labour Court.”
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) is on the second week of a national strike at all community learning centres and technical and vocational education and training colleges. It’s demanding the department pay salaries for full-time employment based on qualifications.
Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said teachers at these centres were supposed to earn well over the minimum wage.
Nehawu is to meet with the department to discuss these demands. The department did not respond to requests for comment.