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BTU threatens court action against Govt

The Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) is prepared to take the government head on in court over the contentious issue of Levels of Operations (LOO). The Union is of the view that the issue has disenfranchised thousands of primary school teachers with regard to their promotion and progression to higher scales.

The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) this week made it clear that the matter will not be resolved before an evaluation conducted by government officials to determine whether LOO extends to Primary School Senior Teachers or not.

BTU Secretary General, Ibo Kenosi this week told this publication that the union has decided to recall its members who had formed part of Task Force that was to carry out evaluation assessment on Primary School Senior Teachers.

Kenosi has written a letter to Ruth Maporisa, Director of DPSM informing her that it was never the intention or purpose of LOO arrangement that entitlement will be based on job evaluation assessments.

“The requirement for a job evaluation assessment is an additional requirement that was never part of the original content of the LOO scheme,” reads the letter seen by this publication.

It further reads: “This additional requirement is unlawful and irregular and BTU does not accept it.”

Following the meeting between unions representing teachers and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) officials last week, the three parties agreed to refer the issue regarding LOO to DPSM since it is dealing with promotions.

LOO was introduced in 2013 as a Remuneration Levelling Ground Dispensation and sought to promote social labour justice by recognising the need to level the payment structure of a more homogenous value chain job, so that all government employees are not disadvantaged.

BTU is however disappointed by the segregated implementation of the policy since it did not benefit primary school teachers but rather disenfranchised thousands of them from promotions and progressing to C1 scale. “This phenomenon is not only discriminatory to primary school teachers against the whole of the public service, but it also discriminates them against each other within the wider education sector,” states the position paper prepared by BTU.

Currently, primary school teachers still earn lower than junior secondary and senior secondary teachers even when they hold equal or better still higher qualifications than them. Junior secondary teachers and senior secondary teachers however earn equal salaries for similar posts as long as their qualifications are the same.

According to Kenosi, as long as government pays nurses and doctors equal salaries for equal qualifications regardless of whether they are deployed at clinics or primary hospitals, the same should apply in the teaching fraternity.

The BTU Secretary General is convinced that what is happening currently is confirmation that government undermines primary education and its importance, hence its continued refusal to allow teachers at primary to enjoy the same salary benefits as those at secondary level. “Government is negotiating in bad faith and it is evident that the officials are not worried about primary teachers as their employees,” he said.

The position paper submitted by BTU to DPSM states that findings from EFA (2000), UNESCO (2004), World Bank (2006) and the World Skill Competition Assessment Committee (2008) affirm that no level of education is more critical than the other.

The paper however states that despite this, in terms of labour needs and complexity of delivery, pre-primary and primary are the most laborious and intellectual commandeering, hence demanding a more inspired but committed teacher-force in a competitively well remunerated labour environment peculiar to the teaching profession.

The BTU position paper notes that at junior and senior secondary levels, School Heads were moved from D3 and D2 respectively to an all D1 scale in recognition of the critical role they all play at management levels, as result no one was disenfranchised on account of level of delivery of education.  Deputy School heads, Head of Departments (HODs) and senior teachers at both junior and secondary progressed to a higher scale.

However, the BTU position paper contends that the above scenario exposed the primary school teachers’ situation and contravenes the spirit of LOO because of the disempowering hierarchy. Under the LOO, at primary level, the School Head, Deputy School Head, HODs and senior teachers earn less than their counterparts at secondary level, irrespective of qualifications.

BTU states that the current state of affairs is diminishing more so that many of these senior teachers are more qualified than their secondary level counterparts. “Unlike at secondary levels, there are no financial segregated rewards and delinking of positions at senior teacher level. In the worst of scenarios newly appointed senior teachers may earn less than teachers who progressed to C1 earlier than them,” contends the paper.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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