Immigrant Teachers Exploited in South Africa

Immigrant Teachers Exploited in South Africa

Glitter of South African pay turns to dust
Immigrant teachers exploited.


WHEN Siphiwe Dube quit her teaching job in Plumtree at the beginning of last year to join hordes of other highly trained teaching practitioners in neighbouring countries, she thought her fortunes would change for the better.

Her salary hardly lasted her a month and was not enough to cater for her most basic needs – even if those commodities were available. So, the 32-year-old didn’t need to consider for long, especially as she had heard reports and rumours that fellow college graduates were doing well financially.

Enough was enough, she said in January 2007, as she failed to turn up for class when schools. Instead, she opted for the services of omalayitsha and joined millions of compatriots who had gone in search of greener pastures, risking life and limb in the crocodile-infested Limpopo in the process.

Like many others fleeing the economic malaise in this crisis-battered country, Dube has come face-to-face with the reality that South Africa is not as green a pasture as Zimbabweans back home believe. And all that glitters is not gold.

Meagre salaries
Numerous months of frustration elapsed before she could land a job as a teacher at a private school in the outskirts of Johannesburg. She then found that the job turned out not to be as lucrative as she anticipated, as she has to contend with the meagre salaries private school-owners are prepared to pay.
The school principal has stubbornly refused to read much into her enviable qualifications and glittering curriculum vitae and only pays her R1,200 a month – a far cry from the R10,000 that the Government pegged as the minimum salary recently.

And she is not the only one in that troubled boat.

The South African branch of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ-SA) senior official Doctor Ncube said the biggest in a plethora of challenges that Zimbabwean teachers are facing in largely xenophobic South Africa was exploitation at the hands of private teachers.

He added, however, that getting employment as a teacher itself was becoming almost impossible, as too many prospective teachers were competing for a slice of a dwindling cake.

The massive flood of Zimbabwean teachers into South Africa has not helped matters either, he said. By estimation, I can safely say per every single teaching post available, between 60 and 100 teachers battle for that job.There is definitely no way the system can absorb all those teachers that are overflowing into this country.

Left with menial jobs
This setback has left highly qualified Zimbabwean teachers with menial jobs in the catering and construction sectors after either failing to secure the job or having downed their chalk because of poor remuneration.

It is unfortunate that the teachers get paid a third of what their South African counterparts are getting. This does not tally with what they are contributing to this country’s economy. Such realisations forced me to quit, said a former teacher, who is now employed as a waiter in a restaurant in Sandton City.

The Department of Education however shoots down reports that some foreign teachers plying their trade in South Africa are exploited and earn salaries not commensurate with those of their South African colleagues.

Duncan Hindle, the Department’s Director General, said although such claims were hogwash, it would be an unethical situation if they were true.

The Department is not aware of that. If that is what is happening, it would be wrong, as the salaries gazetted by the Government apply to both South African and foreign teachers, who should be on equal footing.

Nonetheless, as a Department we are not aware, because no-one has come with complaints of that nature, he said.

If they had grievances, Hindle said, the teachers should approach the Labour Relations Council or CCMA.
This, and efforts that PTUZ-SA is making to help ease their problems, offers a glimmer of hope to Dube and other stressed Zimbabwean teachers in South Africa.

We have met with the Director General of Education to whom we have aired the numerous grievances that the Zimbabwean teachers have. We are making headway, said Doctor Ncube – CAJ News

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It is unfortunate that the teachers get paid a third of what their South African counterparts are getting. This does not tally with what they are contributing to this country’s economy.

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