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Disgruntled students embark on strike after failing to receive SETA stipends

By Afikile Lugunya - Feb 20, 2018
Disgruntled students embark on strike after failing to receive SETA stipends

It has not been a smooth start to the 2018 academic year for many Health and Safety students, who are accommodated at the Eastcape Training Centre (ETC) for their Construction Health and Safety Learnerships as they embarked on a strike after they did not receive their stipends since December 2017.

The students have since been informed to stop their protest at the premises as their grievance has nothing to do with ETC.

“Master Builders Association (MBA) is the employer and they get funding from our Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA)," described one of the student leaders, Zanele Yoyo.

"Last year, we came for an induction; we were informed that we would start the training on the 7th of November 2017."

She said that they signed the contracts, but were not informed on which dates they would get imbursement.

Yoyo further said that the instructions were to sign a register every day and at the end of the month that register would be sent to the SETA where the document will be analysed while they await for payment; apparently that takes five days.

After the analysis the report would come back and an invoice issued by MBA, which would take approximately ten days - thus a total of 15 days for the whole process.

According to the students, they never received their stipends in November and only got paid on the 15th of December  - that was the last time, they received money from the SETA.

Yoyo said that around 59 students enrolled for the training; between six and seven students have so far dropped out because they were depending on the stipends to continue with their training.

She added that they were told that absent students would have R65 deducted from their stipends for each day, however, she was surprised when her stipend had deductions when she was never absent.

The MBA Skills Development Manager, Craig Townsend, explained that the reason for the deduction was because the programme was started on the 7th not at the beginning of November, which means they could not be paid for the first six days.

Yoyo told RNEWS that a meeting was conducted between the students and the MBA where they asked about their December stipends and apparently Craig informed them that the registers were not submitted - and that they are "not entitled to stipends, it was just a privilege".

“He also said that if we are not going to listen to their rules, we must just pack up and go, but we informed them that we are not going to do that because that is what they want,” she said.

A distressed Cebumzi Sitemele, from Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, said that he quit his job for the learnership and that decision haunts him.

“I go around asking for bus fare from people so that I can be able to attend classes. I’m now deep in debt and some people even run away when they see me because they think that I will burden them by borrowing money from them,” he said.

Townsend told RNEWS; “When we contacted SETA about the plight of the students, we were informed that a lady responsible for this process was booked off because she was sick and that led to the delay.

“They are the ones that deal with everything not us, so the problem does not lie with MBA or with ETC; we only manage the programme while SETA manages the funds. The problem is with SETA not disbursing the funds."

He said that the SETA, as per the arrangement, needs to "tell us the amount that we need we need to pay for students so that we can disburse it".

“SETA was also invited to this meeting with the students, but they didn’t attend without any explanation," Townsend said.

Apparently it’s not the first time; they had encountered such problem with SETA, making this a third group to come across such problem.

“I said to them, go home then when you get the stipend then you can come back again because there’s nothing more I can do if SETA doesn’t pay,” Townsend said.

Speaking for ETC, Peter George said: “My explanation for them was that they cannot picket in these premises because it has nothing to do with ETC, we only provide the training to them and it is not us that they have a problem with.

“If they want to protest then they must just go and protest at the premises of the people they have problems with not us."

Speaking for the Eastern Cape Region SETA, a lady, identified only as Chrisentia, said that she could not comment on the matter and said that if the students have problems and challenges on the programme, then they must not send news agencies, but must come and speak to her themselves.