Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) on Thursday walked out of a meeting with Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) officials, protesting Minister Dr Unity Dow’s absence from the meeting.
The meeting which was initiated by Dow abruptly ended before critical matters were discussed after the unions were informed that Dow would not make it to the meeting due to other official duty commitments.
The walkout was followed by a press briefing addressed jointly by the leadership of the two unions. Dow was accused of deliberately undermining the unions and their significance by absconding from a meeting which she initiated to address various concerns from the teaching fraternity.
Top on the agenda of the scheduled meeting was to agree on the fees to be paid to teachers for supervising coursework and the fees for invigilation of the upcoming end of year BEC examinations for Primary School
Leaving Examinations (PSLE), Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGSCE).
The two unions also wanted the minister to update them on the matter regarding hours of work for teachers, proposed 26 days pay for teachers’ school vacations.
BTU Acting President Kenathata Dipogiso said it was clear that the gains made by the unions under the previous Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi are being reversed. “The introduction of the new Minister and Permanent Secretary (PS) has reversed the good that we achieved previously under Venson-Moitoi and Grace Muzila,” said Dipogiso.
The two unions, which are affiliates of Botswana Federation of Public Service Union (BOFEPUSU) were irked by Permanent Secretary in MoESD Nicholas Matlhare, who has questioned the legality of the meeting requested by the two unions in respect to the issues they want to be discussed. Although the two unions have previously directly engaged the Minister and managed to reach binding consensus, Matlhare said using such a forum could be inappropriate.
Matlhare has since told the unions that he has referred the matter to DPSM, which is the employer of teachers under the Public Service Act, to determine the legality of such forums in making decisions relating to payment of teachers for supervising and invigilating pupils course work.
In 2010 the two trade unions approached the High Court to seek clarity on whether teachers were compelled to supervise and invigilate course work and examinations. High Court Judge Phumaphi ruled in favour of the unions stating that the duty was the responsibility of Botswana Examination Council (BEC).
Following the 2010 examination scandal in the aftermath of the court ruling in which teachers refused to invigilate examinations; MoESD established with the two unions that it will be take the responsibility of paying teachers for invigilation. Since 2011, MoESD has been paying teachers invigilation fees and the amount has been subject to negotiation and renewal on annual basis, taking into considerations factors like inflation rate.
“Dow is approaching these issues from a legal point of view instead of an educational point of view,” said Diposigo. “We have reached a consensus with the previous Minister and her officials before through the same forum.”
BOSETU Deputy President Mogomotsi Motshegwa stated that Dow’s gesture was manifestation of a poor working relationship. Mogomotsi accused Dow of undermining the very critical platform in which teachers’ concerns can be addressed. “The Minister and his officials are joking with serious issues yet we continue to see decline in academic performance,” said Motshegwa, “Government have been working on this issue since 2010 without any meaningful progress.”
Motshegwa said the two unions plan to embark on countrywide consultations with its members and Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) to seek a mandate on what action to pursue. Motshegwa also said they will lobby MPs to support their course in parliament to avert the situation.
The two unions also revealed that teachers who were teaching Moral Education at senior secondary schools were left in the lurch after the subject was phased out. Cambridge University has instructed BEC that it will no longer asses the subject since it found it not necessary. 23 teachers have been affected by the development.
Union officials are trying to engage the Ministry of Education on the matter with a view of offering the affected teachers an alternative. Currently, MoESD has been deploying the affected teachers to teach subjects which they studied as their “minors”.
“It is a concern because teachers are suddenly forced to teach subjects they have not been conversant with for the past 15 years or so,” said Motshegwa. “What we have proposed to government is to consider promoting them to the level of Principals Education Officers responsible for moral education for junior secondary schools.”
The Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni says the search to appoint the Ombudsman and other critical heads of department is currently ongoing and the process is expected to be completed before end of the year.
The Ombudsman position fell vacant almost five months ago after Augustine Makgonatsotlhe was removed from the office and appointed as Ambassador to Kuwait.
Two Batswana nationals have been arrested in Zimbabwe for illegal trade in mercury. The duo is being held together with a Zimbabwean national who is being questioned by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
This publication understands that the suspects who are aged between 39 and 56 years hail from Tutume and Selebi-Phikwe. At the time of the arrest, they were found in possession of a pistol, bomb motor and four live rounds. It is understood that the suspects told investigators during interrogation that the deadly substance has a lucrative market in Far East countries, where the demand is high. It is further reported that the suspects claimed that the mercury can be easily accessed in mines through middleman.
The Namibian Lives Matter Movement has weighed in on the looming border dispute between their country and Botswana.
Commenting on reports that the Namibian Parliament has dispatched a committee along the border between the two countries on fact finding mission, the group commended“the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, De-fence and Security that will engage community members living along the Namibia Botswana Border in conducting public hearings into acts of aggression and brutality by Botswana Defence (BDF) Force against innocent and unarmed Namibians.”