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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.