Teachers, BEC Exam war in numbers
It is tools down at the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) marking centres in Gaborone – and BEC will have to dig deep financially if it is to obviate the situation.
Close to 20 000 teachers are in the capital city to mark scripts for roughly 40 000 candidates in the Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations. For the past five days multitudes of teachers who applied to examine both JCE and BGCSE registered a labour dispute with the BEC complaining about what they term slavery conditions of work.
The aggrieved teachers told this paper that the employer, BEC has amended this year’s contract, doing away with benefits they have all along been entitled to. At the top of the frustrations was the removal of subsistence pay from the contracts replacing it with composite pay of which teachers are compelled to pay back a certain percentage after completion of the marking exercise.
“Subsistence pay included night out, transport allowance, food and taxi fares. These monies we got five or six days into the work. Thereafter we will get our script remunerations, which comes after the work maybe days before Christmas,” said one of the teachers who asked to remain anonymous.
In the former contract, papers varied according to subjects with others rating P11, P15 or P20 per paper. However this time around with composite pay, everything is compressed into one. “That is, there is no night-out and other allowances. We get an advance pay of about P3000 which we will have to pay back after we get our pay for marking,” added another teacher at Naledi Senior Secondary School marking centre.
This has not been received well by the teachers who want the same conditions as in the past contracts, or else they will continue with ‘boycott’. Teachers had initially demanded P5000 as advance payment, which they did not have a problem with paying back as long as they are paid P100 per script. Senior Secondary School teachers had wanted P70 per script in their proposal while Junior Secondary School teachers had asked for P100 per script, the two groups agreed to converge at the demand of P100 per script after discussions.
Another issue that is proving to be a thorn between teachers and BEC is the issue of tax. Whatever money is paid to the markers will be taxed at 10%. “But you know BURS tax starts at 25%, this means we will be owing BURS 15% which we will have to pay them somehow from our pockets. So that’s all we want BEC to address or else it will be stalemate,” said another teacher at one of the marking venues.
TEACHERS DISOWN NEW CONTRACTS
Coming for the temporary job of marking, teachers say they were not aware of the new contract prepared by the BEC, instead they heard about it through grape vine hence they couldn’t believe it. On the 4th of December when they were supposed to begin the work they noticed from the contract that it has changed and BEC representatives came in to address in a bid to explain the developments.
It is at this gathering that a number of un-answered questions were raised by teachers which BEC agents failed to answer hence worsening the contractual conflict. “Batho ba ba neng ba tsile ha, ke di junior ko BEC, re bata Mokopakgosi ka sebele kana Dow a te gore address because ke belaela sengwe golo ha,” one teacher said at a gathering in Mogoditshane Senior School (marking centre).
Most of the contracts were to come into effect from the 4th to the 22nd of December. There are close to 20 000 teachers who have voluntarily sought to mark scripts in Gaborone this year. Each teach is expected to mark a maximum of 250 scripts, depending on availability, but the number could be lower. If a teacher is to mark the maximum number of scripts, he or she will register about P25 000 if BEC was to agree a P100 per script rate; or P17 500 if BEC was to go with the proposal of P70 per script.
If the assumption is that each teacher marks the 250 scripts at a rate of P100 then the Examinations Council will need a budget of about P500 million to be able to pay teachers who are doing the marking. At the rate of P70 per script for 250 scripts per teacher, the Council must budget P350 million. For instance about 198 teachers have applied and have been accepted to mark mathematics scripts – this spells out that for this subject alone there should P4 950 000 reserved to pay the markers at a rate of P100 per script for 250 scripts.
BEC TO INVITE OTHER MARKERS
Meanwhile the council has insisted it will not accede to teachers’ demands and would rather call others to examine. A directive to teachers this week discouraged them to hold meetings at marking venues. “Examiners are discouraged from holding any more meetings at marking venues unless it is absolutely necessary. The executive management or its representatives will not hold any consultations, meetings or activities that have the potential to disruptor delay the marking exercise,” BEC executive manager, Jenamiso Nthele ordered.
On the other hand the Mathematics Association of Botswana (MAB) has called on both parties to put the interest of the learners at heart when addressing their differences. “Teachers have the duty to protect the integrity and credibility of the profession. As much as we support all efforts aimed at improving the welfare and working conditions of the teachers such efforts should be done within the confines of the law, procedurally and in good faith,” wrote Mathews Masole, chairperson of MAB.
He appealed to appealed to mathematics teachers and “other subjects’ teachers” to honour their 2017 exam marking obligation, “positions which they voluntarily applied for,” he stated. Masole said his Association believes in credible marking process and urged BEC to avert these kind of developments in future.
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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP
As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.
Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.
Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.
He made a special appeal to the PAP: “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”
Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”
According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.
As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.
The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.
Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.
Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.
He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.
“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.