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Teachers sue Gov’t over scarce skills allowances

More than 107 teachers who are members of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) have this week dragged the government to court claiming the debatable scarce skills allowances.

Information reaching Weekend Post suggests that the teachers demanding the scarce skills allowances are holders are holders of Diploma in Business Studies, Degree in Business Studies and  Association of Accounting Technician's  (ATT) which is a United Kingdom (UK) qualification and professional body for vocational accountants.

Recently BOSETU acting in concert with Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) won a case in which court ordered government to increase salaries of all Senior Teachers at Primary School level to correlate with their counterparts at Junior and Secondary Schools.
The case acted as a moral boos for BOSETU and they have this week filed another case in relation to 107 teachers in which they plead with High Court to order that the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) to pay them scarce skills allowance which they believe deserve them.

“The DPSM is directed to  pay Scarce Skill Allowances  to teachers  who are members of the  Applicant’s Union (BOSETU), holding degree in Accounting and related qualifications in accordance with  DPSM Circular Savingram of 2nd December 2015,” BOSETU through their lawyer Onalethata Kambai stated in court papers seen by this publication.  

The attorney further stated that alternatively,  there be an order  declaring  that the claimants (teachers) duly represented by BOSETU, being  holders of Diploma or Degree  in Accounting  And Business Accounting AAT/, Diploma in Accounting, Business Studies /BIA/CIFA or related qualifications  and  teaching accounting and business studies or commerce  perform accounting duties and are eligible  to be  paid scare skill as allowance as per Circular Savingram referenced DP 19/72 VI (116) dated 2nd December 2015 and 10th August  2015  referenced  DP 19/96 VIII (40).

“That such payment of scarce skill allowance shall be backdated reckoned from 1st April 2013 in accordance with Circular Savingram of 10th August 2015 referenced DP 19/96 VIII (40) and savingram 2nd December 2015 referenced DP 19/72 VI (116),” Kambai argued in the court papers. He also contended that the Attorney General be ordered and directed to pay the costs of the Application, jointly and several with the DPSM, the one paying the other to be absolved, only in the event that they oppose this Application.

In his founding affidavit in the court documents, BOSETU Secretary General Tobokani Rari narrated that a review of the skills audit was conducted in November 2009 and resulted in the DPSM Directive dated 20th November 2009 which covered holders of AAT qualifications. In April 2013, the BOSETU SG reminisced that a savingram was circulated to all ministries to pay holders of Diploma in Accounting and Business Studies scarce skill effective from 1st April 2013.

“On the 31st of March 2014, the Director of DPSM Mr. Carter Morupisi issued a savingram authorizing public service employees holding Diploma in Accounting and Business Studies to earn Scarce Skill Allowance effective 1st April 2013.” Thereafter, the unionist pointed out that, on the 2nd of December 2015, the Director of DPSM, Mrs. Ruth Maphorisa, issued another circular Savingram referenced  DP 19/72 V1 (116) authorizing  holders of degree in Accounting or related qualifications to be paid scarce skill allowance.

According to Rari the said directive never discriminated between holders of accounting qualifications who are teachers in government schools and those working in various government offices as officials. He said the teachers are entitled to benefit from the said allowance because they are all in the employ of the  public service  as holders of Business Studies, ATT, and or Accounting or related qualifications and actually practice accounting during teaching and imparting knowledge to students in public schools.

“I aver that teachers  teaching Business Studies  are also  entitled to scarce skill allowance as they impart trade principles including credit trading, to mention but a few. I aver that this is the same knowledge applied by officers holding Degrees or Diploma in commerce qualifications working in different offices as commerce/trade officials   for the government of Botswana,” Rari stressed in the court documents.

According to BOSETU SG, the denial of scarce skill allowance to the applicants is completely irrational, unreasonable discriminatory because it is based on the placement of the claimants on their vocation as   teachers and not on whether they apply accounting or business principles in the discharge of their duties. This is so because former teachers who hold the same Accounting or Business Degrees were transferred to other departments in government earn scarce skill allowance when they are employed in other Ministries like the Department of trade or Accountant General, he further contended.

“I aver that in teaching the above principles, teachers actually practice or perform accounting and audit duties as they have to solve accounting, audit and business studies problems using principles of accounting and audit equations in the same manner as other holders of same qualifications who are holding accounting and audit positions employed as officials other than teachers in public schools,” he said.

In the same  vein, Rari stated that when preparing examinations, and marking same, the claimants who are all  teachers in public schools  perform accounting  duties  by imparting  accounting, business studies , and audit  knowledge to learners  in government schools  by actually applying  accounting and business  principles and techniques.

He further maintained that the claimants who are all   teachers in public schools are not merely holders of Diploma in Accounting and Business Studies, but practice or perform accounting, Business Studies and audit duties by imparting knowledge to students in public schools hence they are eligible   to earn Scarce Skill Allowance. The matter is expected to be heard at Lobatse High Court before Justice Ntlhomiwa soon.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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