Banning education assistants from studying ‘pure madness’

Banning education assistants from studying ‘pure madness’

Teacher unions and the School Governing Body Council of SA have blasted the Limpopo basic education department’s decision to stop education assistants from furthering their studies or seeking part-time employment while contracted to the state.

This comes after the department issued a circular earlier this month ordering the termination of contracts of education assistants if they were found to be studying or working on a part-time basis.

The appointment of assistant teachers is part of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI), which entered its third phase on April 1, within the basic education department.

According to the circular, issued by head of department Onica Dederen, education assistants are prohibited from studying or being in any other form of employment.

“The appointed youth should not be in any form of employment or training whatsoever. Youth should not have another employer and receive a salary, stipend or wage. If the assistants could be found to be in education, in employment and in training, their contracts should be terminated immediately,” the circular read.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the circular violated the rights of assistant teachers as it was obstructing their progress in terms of empowering themselves.

“Why would conditions of assistant teachers be based on a discriminatory rule that you cannot study? Teachers go to training on weekends or study at night without staying away from work. That circular is very odd and out of this world, and I don’t think it is legitimate and it might not only be discriminatory but in violation of national regulations,” Maluleke said.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA’s executive director, Basil Manuel, said while the union accepted the prohibition of assistant teachers from having extra forms of employment, it had challenged the banning of education assistants from further learning by the department.

“We told them that we agree with termination of people who are getting funding and some form of other income like NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] as hiring them would be robbing deserving youth of what is relatively a small stipend. But not everybody is getting financial support for further study and we asked them to tell us what their plans are regarding this and we have not got a response,” Manuel said.

SGBs have dismissed the circular and described it as “pure madness”.

The council’s convener Masoane Derick called on SGBs to defy the circular when appointing assistant teachers in the province.

“Limpopo as the worst-performing province in academics should not be encouraging learners to quit studying, or punish those furthering their studies by terminating their employment contracts. The council encourages all SGBs to disregard the circular and extend contracts of every deserving candidate regardless of what they are doing in their spare times,” Derick said.

Limpopo education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said the circular was based on instructions from the national department.

“The circular is as per directives of the director-general of the national department. This is not a Limpopo-only thing. We are acting on directives from head office as we don’t make such determinations at provincial level,” Chuene said.

Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said those opposed to the criteria misunderstood the purpose of the PYEI, adding that it would not favour everybody.

“The initiative is not designed to solve all the problems but to intervene specifically to provide an opportunity to those who are neither in education, employment or training,” Mhlanga said.

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