A showdown is looming between teachers and education officials in Kwazulu-Natal.
Teachers in the Durban south region skipped classes last Wednesday to attend a protest rally. Hundreds of teachers, allegedly members of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), now fear they face additional deductions from their pay packets..
Sadtu spokesman Sipho Nkosi told Sowetan yesterday that the provincial department of education had issued a circular to the Durban south and north regions.
"It could be that the department is planning to dock teachers' salaries for the day of the gatherings," he said.
Nkosi asked teachers to leave everything to Sadtu if the department docked their salaries.
"Should the department decide to dock salaries for that day, we will sort it out. Teachers should not worry," said Nkosi.
He said the department should not waste teaching time by trying to avoid problems it created when it breached an agreement it had with the union to refund the money deducted for the "no work, no pay" principle.
"The department of education in this province should come clean and refund teachers their money if they want to see teaching and learning when schools reopen," Nkosi added.
Last Wednesday the teachers abandoned classes and gathered at Curries Fountain Stadium to await a Durban labour court ruling over the docking of their salaries.
However, the matter was postponed to next month because the education department failed to respond to court papers.
The case was taken to court by Sadtu after teachers allegedly had between R1100 and R3000 docked from their March salaries. The deductions are allegedly expected to continue until June.
Other rallies on the day of the expected court ruling were held across the province. After the rallies, the education department's regional office allegedly demanded to inspect school registers, sparking fears of more deductions from teachers' pay packets.
The department was unavailable for comment yesterday.
However, last week's action by teachers who "neglected their duties during school hours" was condemned by education officials in the region.
Education MEC Ina Cronje said: "The department would like to caution against the use of learners as pawns by some teachers who had decided to nurse their personal interests. They abandoned children who wanted an education in classrooms for the day."
She said the disruption of teaching by teachers was unacceptable as it destroyed the culture of learning, respect and discipline that teachers were expected to impart.
"We call on all teachers to put our children first. Our children have a constitutional right to education. It is grossly irresponsible of some teachers to rob our children of this fundamental right," Cronje said.