Ban on 'Model C' bonuses

31 December 2011 - 02:19 By PREGA GOVENDER
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Pupils write exams at a school in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. File picture
Pupils write exams at a school in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. File picture

THE government has banned school governing bodies from dishing out hefty perks and bonuses to principals and teachers at former Model C schools.

The controversial decision by the Department of Basic Education has outraged some school governing bodies, who fear it may result in a wave of top teachers ditching state schools for better-paying private institutions.

But many believe the move could bring relief for parents, as its aim is to rein in escalating school fees.

Besides outlawing bonuses, the new regulations - which came into effect on December 15 and will have the most impact on schools in wealthy suburbs - drastically limit the number of hours for which a teacher can claim overtime.

A survey by the Governing Body Foundation of 106 former Model C schools found that 55 principals received bonuses ranging from R1500 to R40000 last year.

Parents of pupils enrolled at the country's 3200 former Model C schools forked out about R10.4-billion in fees in 2011.

The foundation's national chief executive officer, Tim Gordon, said: "The regulations promote mediocrity at the expense of excellence by outlawing any form of bonus for work well done."

The regulations on the "prohibition of the payment of unauthorised remuneration" say a governing body may not employ a state teacher for more than two extra hours on a school day and more than six hours on other days. But teachers generally work an average of four hours' overtime on any school day, either coaching or taking part in other sporting and cultural activities. Over weekends, they are often on duty from early morning until late at night.

Limpopo parent Tersia Visagie, who has two children at Laerskool Tzaneen, said teachers should see their profession as "a calling".

"Is it really overtime if you teach a child how to play rugby? Shouldn't that be part of your job? It's rubbish that they should claim overtime," said Visagie.

She said teachers knew what they were getting into when they decided to join the profession.

"If they wanted to do it for the money, they should have become lawyers or doctors."

In terms of the new regulations, published in the Government Gazette, governing bodies will have to use a new formula to calculate rates for overtime.

Schools will also have to apply in writing to provincial education departments for permission to pay teachers for overtime work.

The application must indicate the extent to which school fees and the proceeds of fundraising and donations will be used to pay the teacher.

Payments that governing bodies may not make to teachers, according to the new regulations, include:

  • Payment for hostel supervision;
  • The promotion of an employee to a level higher than that at which he or she is employed by the state; and
  • Any benefits in kind, such as free accommodation, phones, holidays, cellphones, groceries and garden services, unless a monetary value is attached to it.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said school fees at former Model C schools "were just galloping" because of the huge bonuses that schools had been paying to principals.

"School governing bodies should not tax parents to give incentives at the cost of other poor parents who can't afford very high fees."

She said conditions of service should be the same for all teachers across the board.

"It shouldn't be a disadvantage for someone teaching in a poor area that a person with the same qualification [in another area] gets more pay because parents in that area can afford it."

Matakanya Matakanya, general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, which represents about 7000 mostly non-fee-paying schools, welcomed the regulations.

"We believe that it will help keep school fees down. The payment of bonuses has widened the gap between the poor and rich schools," said Matakanya.

But governing bodies and principals this week expressed concerns about losing top-performing teachers if they were not adequately compensated.

A snap survey by the Sunday Times showed that several state teachers will be moving to private schools in the new year after having been offered better salaries.

These include:

  • Two senior Afrikaans teachers and the head of department of maths at Benoni High;
  • A teacher at Parktown High School for Girls; and
  • A teacher at Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool in Pretoria.

Describing the regulations as an obstacle to efficient school management, Gordon said: "The non-payment of bonuses will be particularly demoralising for those who have had it previously and now no longer have it."

Paul Colditz, chief executive officer of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, said the move was "irrational".

The headmistress of Parktown High School for Girls in Johannesburg, Anthea Cereseto, said if parents wanted to pay for quality education, that was their right.

"They realise that to get a teacher requires that the school recognises expertise and they are prepared to pay for that expertise. It's not as if government is paying; the parents are paying. That's the whole point," she said.

Her counterpart at Westerford High in Cape Town, Rob le Roux, said the regulations "played right into the hands of private schools".

"We will be losing all our quality teachers to private schools. It will happen; there's no question."

The principal of a top school in Ekurhuleni, who did not want to be named, said good teachers were targeted by private schools all the time.

"I lost at least 30 teachers to private schools in the past eight years."

Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union, said the union believed the state should pay teachers enough so they did not need extra from parents.

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