I waited six months to be paid says teacher in PE's Northern Areas

JULY 29, 2015

Some teachers in Port Elizabeth's Northern Areas are finding it hard to survive because they don't get paid for several months on end, one teacher told News24.

"In my personal experience I once waited for six months to be paid," said Naeem Lagardien, a teacher at the Bethalsdorp Senior Secondary School.

"One teacher waited for eight months, and he only eventually got paid for five months, while I heard that one guy ended up losing his house."

Largardien said teachers end up having to borrow money to survive. "How long can someone survive like that? You end up in a hole [of debt], and that hole is deep and gets deeper and deeper."

He said this seemed to be a fundamental problem in certain Port Elizabeth schools. "I have not known it to be anything different, and I have been teaching for 25 years," Lagardien said.

"You have to ask why it is like this only here. Teachers get paid in the Western Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal."

Are we nothing but numbers?

He laid the blame at the provincial department of education. "Are we nothing but numbers to the department?"

He said temporary teachers were often appointed, and eventually their appointments became permanent. Several months later they were still waiting to be paid.

"Imagine that you are a young teacher, and at first you are happy that you have been appointed and when the first month goes by and you are not paid, you say that it's okay because I have a new job," Lagardien said.

"But when it carries on, for how long can you go home without any money?"

Residents in the Northern Areas recently closed down schools to protest against the lack of teachers in their schools, and the non-payment of some of those who were already employed, among other problems.

Police had to disperse the protesters on Monday with rubber bullets, teargas and a water cannon, while children from homes overlooking Standford Road continued to barricade the path and stone passing cars on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday police blocked off the road at Gelvandale High School to prevent motorists from driving through. In the distance rocks and rubbish could be seen strewn across the road.

A municipal surveillance vehicle, with a large camera on top was scouting the road from the police line.

Schools to re-open on Thursday

A meeting between parents, residents and the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF) decided on Tuesday night to re-open schools on Thursday after the provincial education department said it was dealing with the problems in the area.

In terms of the payment of teachers, MEC Mandla Makupula told media on Tuesday that the problem was being addressed.

He said that of the 213 teachers still waiting to be paid, only 177 would receive their salaries by August 8. There were no indication when the other 36 teachers would be paid.

"It is a problem of the system. All teachers who have done their work must be paid," Makupula said.

Lagardien said: "It is always a system problem."

Marlon Daniels, a community activist and member of NAEF, told News24 on Wednesday that the department had not told them when the other teachers would be paid.

"With those who fell through the cracks, there is no clear commitment from them [the department]."

He said the department needed to cut through the red tape surrounding the payments of teachers, because they were only paid at specific times.

"Even if they [the department] gives a cheque, that would be ok."

NAEF secretary Richard Draai told News24 that the process of sorting out the salaries was on-going.

Draai could not confirm that an unpaid teacher had lost his home because he could not make payments on it.

"There are teachers that are struggling, but they don't want to put their names out there because they don't want to be victimised."

Bruce Damons, principal of the Sapphire Road Primary School, told News24: "We have two substitute teachers that have not been paid since the last quarter."

When asked how the teachers survived without a salary, he said the school's governing body (SGB) advanced them money, which the SGB would eventually claim back from the department.