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Education MEC denies teachers not paid in order to roll out sanitary pads campaign

MEC for Education in KwaZulu-Natal Mthandeni Dlungwane in a press briefing on issues that confront the education system.
MEC for Education in KwaZulu-Natal Mthandeni Dlungwane in a press briefing on issues that confront the education system.

The KwaZulu-Natal education department has denied that it dipped into teachers' salaries when it overspent close to R90-million on sanitary pads.

"When we do budget‚ there is no way that we can take money that is allocated to pay teachers for goods and services. There is no way that we can touch that money. It's criminal and against the law‚" education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana said in Durban on Tuesday.

He was responding to widespread claims by unions that the "financially-strapped" department paid R109-million for a school sanitary pads distribution campaign‚ but could not afford to pay teachers.

Unions also claimed that there was an oversupply at some primary schools where sanitary pads were piling up in storerooms.

Dlungwana admitted that there were "concerns" regarding the programme and therefore an investigation had been launched.

Head of department Dr Vusumuzi Nzama explained that the initial budget for the programme was R20-million.

"The original plan was to limit it to four months providing only 520‚000 learners but later on we had to increase the budget to R109-million to provide for 900‚000 for 12 months‚" he said.

Nzama said the tender was a national open tender for all provinces to use.

"As the province we never advertised any tenders for this programme. I don't even know the company appointed by national department‚" he said.

Following Nzama's explanation‚ Dlungwana said he was assured that the tender process and budget allocation were above board. However‚ he had to test the allegations made against the department.

He said the programme aimed at providing sanitary pads to 88% of the schools in the province where some pupils missed on average four days every month as their parents could not afford feminine hygiene products.

"It is upsetting to be asked if it is our core function to do so. Why are we providing nutrition for our learners? Are you saying that we should only focus on teaching and learning?

"Some of these issues impact negatively on teaching and learning. Our responsibility is to provide so that learners are in a position to be in class."

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