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Open letter: Unpaid teachers plead for salaries

Dear Mr Mthunywa Ngonzo, 

We are ­Chumisa Nguza and Danika Swanepoel, temporary teachers at Mary Waters High School in ­Grahamstown.

In 2010 I, Chumisa, was employed at Mary Waters as a temporary teacher. I have always had problems with the payment of my salary. This year has been the worst. I have taught without any salary at all. I teach maths to grade 8 pupils, arts and culture to grade 9 and business studies to grade 10.

I, Danika, am a BSc graduate from Rhodes University. I also have a postgraduate certificate in education. I was appointed to Mary Waters in 2012 and I teach natural science, life science and social science from grades 8 to grade 11. I have not been paid since I started working.

As professional women, we would like to share the pain and suffering that we have endured at the hands of the Eastern Cape education department. We have been given no explanation at all for why the department will not pay us. We have submitted all the required documents on more than one occasion.

Just a week ago I, Chumisa, was told that I could not be paid until I had produced a copy of my divorce decree. Why? My divorce has no connection to the department's ability to pay me. I was on the department's payroll in 2011 and 2012, but now, all of a sudden, for some random reason, I am not being paid. I am a single parent with two children, one of whom has just started his tertiary education. 

I could not even pay this child's registration fee and this jeopardised his education. I had to borrow money from a friend to pay registration and residence fees. My accounts are in arrears. I cannot pay my other son's school fees. I am in danger of having my home repossessed. 

I have received notice that the municipality will cut off my water. I depend solely on my sisters and my mother's old-age pension to keep food on the table. I am fortunate to have a kind boyfriend who helps me. The kindness of my family keeps me going, but the department's failure to pay me has placed a huge stress on all of us. Sometimes I have to walk to school 3km away because I have no money for a taxi.

I, Danika, find it extremely ­frustrating that I have never received a pay cheque from the department.  I have had to rely on my boyfriend and extra tutoring to keep food on the table and I am unable to plan my future like this.

We both worked hard to become professional women and never expected to be treated like this.

We work in a very stressful environment because the children at our school have a lot of social problems. 

Not being paid for a job we are employed to do and take seriously is extremely distressing.

We urge you, Mr Ngonzo, to take steps against those officials who have failed to ensure that we are paid, while they themselves earn a salary, and to take personal responsibility to ensure that all teachers get paid.

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