The Limpopo department of education has been using thousands of temporary teachers without paying them for three years.

The department is now struggling to pay the nearly 3000 teachers and claims it does not have the R200million required to pay them.

The teachers have not been paid since 2007.

The teachers were not paid because the department had delayed to implement a collective agreement resolution.

An agreement between the department and the unions in 2008 stipulates that the department will pay the temporary teachers 37percent of the benefits due to them.

Most of the affected teachers said they were forced to work for incomplete salaries because they were desperate for jobs and willing to help pupils, though they were rewarded with mistreatment.

One of the teachers told Sowetan that the situation was so demoralising that standing in front of pupils was a hard task.

"We are dealing with a department that is not helpful. How does it fail to stick to an agreement taken three years ago?" asked the angry teacher.

But education authorities said yesterday they were addressing the problem and that they had already made payments to teachers in the Waterberg district.

Departmental spokesperson Pat Kgomo said the problem was caused by budget constraints.

He confirmed that they had stopped paying the teachers because the department wanted to conclude the occupation specific dispensation agreement, but that lack of funds had precluded them from implementing the resolution.

Kgomo said the department had failed to pay the teachers because "it required more money that was not budgeted for".

"We had to suspend the process, but the situation will be resolved soon," he said.

The department also faces criticism for failing to appoint temporary teachers into permanent positions by terminating their contracts.