Education Dept vs Treasury: See-saw over pay leaves teaching assistants in limbo

Treasury says provinces must pay teacher assistants who weren't paid December salaries, but the national Basic Education Department says Treasury made funds available.

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DURBAN - Teaching assistants who are still waiting to be paid their December salaries said on Thursday they’re disappointed with the poor communication from the Basic Education Department.

Last year, the department recruited about 319,000 assistants nationally to start work from December 2020 to March this year. R7 billion was set aside for the project.

The Basic Education Department’s initiative was launched amid much fanfare last year as part of government’s R100 billion stimulus package focused on job creation. But the project appears to have been poorly executed - including questions raised about its vetting process by school governing bodies.

READ: DBE to recruit 300,000 education assistants

This week, Eyewitness News reported on how many of them were still not paid or did not receive the full amounts.

Teaching assistants from provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga reached out to Eyewitness News, detailing their frustrations over unpaid salaries.

READ: KZN teaching assistants weren't paid in December and there's confusion as to why

One person from KZN, who did not want to named, said many promises were made but were not fulfilled: “We were promised that we were going to get paid on the 15th of December but this didn’t happen. We were then told that we were going to get paid before Christmas but we never received any payment. And then, we were told that we were going to get paid on the 1st of January, but we still haven’t been paid.”

While the Basic Education Department told Eyewitness News the funds were made available by Treasury, Treasury itself in a statement to Eyewitness News on Thursday said funding for the project was made through the Division Of Revenue Amendment Act, which is a piece of legislation that is yet to be approved and signed.

In the meantime, Treasury said, provinces were asked to use their own funds to settle outstanding salaries. But Treasury was criticised for this request.

READ: DA wants to know why teaching assistants haven't been paid December salaries

Provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal said they did not have the money to settle outstanding salaries, and the Democratic Alliance's spokesperson Desiree van der Walt is not impressed with Treasury's request.

"You cannot allocate money and then withhold it. So this is uncalled for, for the National Treasury to now come and say provinces must pay. Provinces do not have money," she said.

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