Teachers threaten strike after Limpopo government slashes allowance

Allowance to educators in remote schools to be stopped in January

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Teachers in rural schools in Limpopo say they will be hard hit by the decision to stop their monthly allowances. Graphic: Lisa Nelson

  • The Limpopo education department has stopped the rural allowance to educators from 1 January 2022, because of pressures on the budget, the department said in a circular.
  • About 6,000 people received the allowance, which is supposed to compensate those who work in remote schools.
  • The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union in the province has threatened to strike if the issue is not resolved.

About 6,000 Limpopo educators will no longer be receiving a rural allowance next year.

In a circular dated 30 November, Onica Dederen, head of the Limpopo Department of Basic Education said the payment of the allowance would be stopped from 1 January 2022. Dederen said spending on employees had grown substantially, the budget was “overheating” and there was “a massive budget cut on compensation of employees”.

There are about 6,000 beneficiaries of the rural allowance in Limpopo Province. The allowance is capped at R2,333.65 a month, according to the provincial education department.

South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) provincial secretary Tjebane Sowell expressed “shock and dismay” at the announcement.

“This unilateral action by the head of the department is provocation of the highest order to the union and … will be met with a concomitant action,” said Sowell.

Sowell said the rural incentive had been introduced by the then Minister of Basic Education Naledi Pandor in 2008 to attract and retain teachers in remote schools. The union had approached Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and did not rule out the possibility of an indefinite strike in January next year “once all avenues have been exhausted”.

A teacher from Ndarieni Secondary School in Vhembe district, who lives in Thohoyandou, 50km from the school, said fuel cost him nearly R1,200 a month. The rural allowance was very helpful for this. “From January 2022 I will not manage driving every day to school. But using public transport will really create challenges. It means I will have to wake up everyday around 3.30am to be at school on time.

“Discontinuing paying us the rural allowance has come as a surprise. Our school is in a deep rural area but because of this allowance I was motivated,” he said.

A teacher at Maphophe primary school in Vhembe district said the education department should have given educators time to adjust. “From January 2022, I don’t think I will be able to meet my car instalment payments and insurance. I am looking after my four siblings as my parents are unemployed.”

Tidimalo Chenue, spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Basic Education, said the Covid pandemic had led to budget cuts and the department had had to find R1 billion “to fund the salaries of all the warm bodies existing in the system”. A provision of R303 million had been made for the rural allowance in 2021-22, and R97 million was left. But because of pressure on the whole “compensation of employees” budget, the rural allowance payments had been terminated”.

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TOPICS:  Education Labour

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