Seta project on the skids

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

An R11 mil­lion learn­er­ship pro­gramme launched by Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande last Novem­ber has ground to a halt.

The pro­gramme was meant to give 1 000 learn­ers paid in­tern­ships in the ser­vice in­dus­try, but the un­paid stu­dents and ser­vice providers have pulled out.

Stu­dents have not at­tended class for train­ing, cit­ing the lack of trans­port money and the nonar­rival of the promised stipends. Out of fear of los­ing their cash, some ser­vice providers are still pro­vid­ing train­ing, but to empty chairs.

Ser­vice providers in the joint project with the pro­vin­cial depart­ment of so­cial devel­op­ment, and the Ser­vices sec­tor ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing author­ity (Seta), told City Press this week that they had not been paid since the train­ing project started in Novem­ber.

The project is split be­tween Durban and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

Nz­i­mande’s spokesper­son, Khaye Nk­wanyana, con­firmed that stu­dents had stopped at­tend­ing classes be­cause of non­pay­ment.

He blamed the sit­u­a­tion on “ad­min­is­tra­tive prob­lems” on the part of so­cial devel­op­ment, which was asked to ad­min­is­ter the learn­er­ship project.

One ser­vice provider, who asked not to be named for fear of los­ing busi­ness, ac­cused the so­cial devel­op­ment depart­ment of fail­ing to au­tho­rise pay­ments for learn­ers (a R1 500-amonth stipend each) and the ser­vice providers.

Train­ing had started in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg in Novem­ber and in Durban in De­cem­ber, but came to a halt in March af­ter the con­trac­tors ran out of their own cash as the govern­ment failed to set­tle.

An­other ser­vice provider, who also asked not to be named for fear of los­ing busi­ness, said they had not re­ceived “a sin­gle cent” for train­ing they had car­ried out in Durban for four months.

An em­ployee of one of the ser­vice providers, PMI Con­sult­ing, who de­clined to be named, said that they were con­tracted to train learn­ers as clean­ers, and con­firmed that they had not been paid.

“We un­der­stand that the depart­ment is try­ing to re­solve the mat­ter,” he said, adding that train­ing was on hold.

An­other Durban-based ser­vice provider con­firmed that a few of their young­sters got stipends but were yet to be paid.

“We were told an au­di­tor has been sent to in­ves­ti­gate the prob­lem. We are not train­ing now. We also have ex­penses and can­not work for noth­ing,” he said.

He added that the first ser­vice providers had stopped train­ing in Jan­uary.

At meet­ings in Fe­bru­ary, of­fi­cials from so­cial devel­op­ment ex­plained that learn­ers had not yet been loaded on the Seta data­base, but that pay­ment would be made by mid-March at the lat­est.

“Some learn­ers were paid R1 500 at the end of March. Most are still wait­ing for their stipends. There is no talk of when the train­ing providers or the rest of the learn­ers will be paid,” he said.

“This is a 12-month project, but train­ing last took place in Jan­uary,” an­other ex­plained.

Nk­wanyana said so­cial devel­op­ment had un­der­taken to make pay­ments by early this week. Should they fail to do so, his depart­ment would take over the run­ning of the project, he said.

“We were given a com­mit­ment that pay­ment would take place. If not, we are tak­ing over this project and will man­age it di­rectly,” he said.

“We gave them this month to sort out the prob­lems, fail­ing which we will take over run­ning the project. Stu­dents can­not be al­lowed to suf­fer be­cause of a lack of ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­pac­ity.’’

On Fri­day, KwaZulu-Na­tal so­cial devel­op­ment MEC Weziwe Thusi met some learn­ers in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg to ad­dress their com­plaints.

Her spokesper­son, Vukani Mbele, con­firmed that a meet­ing had been held with the in­terns.

“We did have a meet­ing. We will con­duct a quick probe and we will have a re­port in two weeks,” said Mbele, adding that some learn­ers would be paid and “fol­low-ups” would be made about those who had not re­ceived pay­ment.

Calls to the Ser­vices Seta went unan­swered.

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