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Floundering teachers to be punished

Publishing Date : 21 February, 2018


Ministry of Basic Education, devastated by declining results in public schools has moved to introduce some measures in schools that may see underperforming teachers on the receiving end of government wrath.

This publication is in possession of a correspondence from Mogoditshane Thamaga Sub Region Chief Education officer dated 31 August 2017, addressed to School Heads warning that “action should be taken against teachers who are continuously underperforming”. The letter which does not specify the punitive measures to be taken against underperforming teachers however, also notes that teachers who are doing very well should also be appreciated. Amid consistent underperformance in public schools, there is a growing belief by authorities that teachers could be failing the pupils deliberately.

A new system has been put in place to monitor teachers’ performance every term. The result is analysed then shared with teachers, ranked according to performance. However fear has crept in, in the teaching fraternity. Some teachers who talked to this publication are of the view that the new measures could victimise teachers for circumstances beyond their control. “Pupils perform poorly for various reasons, including social factors such as poverty,” said a primary school teacher who wanted to remain anonymous.

“In rural areas such as ours, most parents and guardians are illiterate and do little or nothing to help the kids with their home work.” The source further indicated that government’s reluctance to introduce specialisation in which a primary school teacher teaches only one or two subjects as compared to the current practice in which teachers are expected to be “jack of all trades” and teach all the subjects does not help them perform well.

Although government has committed to rolling out the programme in all primary schools, most primary schools are still to implement specialisation. Specialisation is a favoured trend around the world including in countries with the finest education systems such as Finland, South Korea, Japan and Singapore among others. Proponents of the system believe that with the current practice primary school teachers are generalists, teaching all or many subjects and therefore lack deep subject expertise to teach well. According to those that subscribe to the belief, this in turn leads to the teachers failing to develop expert knowledge in each of the many subjects they are teaching.

The source also indicated that specialisation will help teachers focus on what they teach best and also decrease their work load. Government has in recent years moved to upgrading primary school teachers from the Primary Teachers Training Colleges (PTTCs) qualification to a Diploma in Education. Another issue which has become the bone of contention is government’s battle with teachers’ unions over the ‘equal payment of teachers with same qualifications’ court battles.

In 2013 government introduced Levels of Operation (LOO) which dealt with among other things, the adjustment of salary structures for teachers as well as ensuring that primary teachers who hold the same qualification with their secondary counterparts enjoy same privileges. That has however not been implemented as government is appealing the resultant matter which brought anomaly to payment structures in the Ministry of Education. Last year Acting Judge Zein Kebonang ruled in favour of Tshiamo Ndebele and 186 others, backed by Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), who approached the court to contend that the inclusion of School Heads as beneficiaries had conferred on them a legitimate expectation that they too would benefit from the implementation of the Cabinet Directive.

Currently, a Head of Department (HOD) in secondary schools act only as supervisors in their respective portfolios, while primary school HODs are expected to also teach. Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) has confirmed to having seen the letter. Rari said though the practice of results analysis is sporadic, it is worrying because performance of a teacher and any other worker for that matter should be assessed holistically looking at all factors such as  class sizes, availability of teaching and learning materials among others.

“In order for one to arrive at a conclusion that a teacher is underperforming, he or she should not only look at the grade that a child got but should have filtered those factors into equation,” he said. “But what we usually see is that supervisors just look at the child’s grade and if it’s low, teachers are written threatening letters.” Rari views teaching and learning as not only about academic performance but also  about mentoring in various aspects such as extra-curricular activities.

The BOSETU secretary general spoke against a discriminatory practice of compelling HODs in primary school to also teach unlike in secondary where they only play a supervisory role. “Not only its discriminatory, it is also counterproductive in that they have overwhelming administrative and supervisory roles that cannot be juggled with the classroom roles.”



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