Teachers have suspended their participation in overtime activities at schools pending ongoing nationwide consultations with their unions regarding overtime allowance.
The consultations are scheduled towards the end of January and will focus on reviewing participation by teachers on working overtime – both after hours and during rest days and corresponding remuneration with particular reference to participating in sporting activities.
It is not the first time teachers reach a dispute with the employer concerning payments and hours of work to their otherwise peculiar profession.
The recent dispute came into play following the employer, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM)’s alleged breach of the agreement that was harmonised in 2012 by altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the Public Service Act and the Employment Act.
DPSM and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) have subsequent to the agreement authored various savingrams that are seen by teachers as not only offensive to the provisions of the labour statutes regulating overtime but also meant to deliberately exploit teachers.
“The DPSM specifically authored a circular savingram referenced DP19/72VI (68) which was followed by a subsequent one from Permanent Secretary, MoE&SD referenced E3/2/21(116) which all purported that employees are required by law (could be forced) to work overtime and should be paid by days off, which in our view was a deliberate distortion of the statutes regulating overtime,” BOSETU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told WeekendPost.
He said the Ministry of Education through Regional Directors has also on several occasions issued various instructions both verbal and written varying and altering the overtime conditions as provided for in the labour statutes, and during the process subjecting teachers to debilitating working conditions.
Of particular reference, according to Rari, is the instruction issued at various Regional Offices requiring teachers to work overtime and be compensated by taking 50% of the days worked as day offs, and another 50% to be compensated in monetary form. This is despite the fact that in line with MoESD, days off can only be taken during school holidays.
“This took away the right of employees as provided for in the statutes to decide on how they should be compensated in case they have to work overtime,” Rari contended.
Rari asserted that they have many incidences where the Ministry of Education has flatly refused to pay teachers after having been lawfully authorised and procedurally rendered service after normal hours and on rest days. “We are alive to the fact that some authorised overtime has been returned to schools unpaid across regions.”
He also noted that: “the cited transgressions of the then understanding of the labour statutes warrant a review of our participation as teachers on working overtime both after hours and during rest days.”
Prior to the implementation of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, teachers then regulated by the repealed Teaching Service Act (TSA) worked very long hours without regard to international standards on hours of work.
With the implementation of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008, the hours of work for the whole of the Public Service were standardized in compliance with the international standards, that is, maximum of 8 working hours per day.
During the transitional negotiations for a smooth change over to the new dispensation in 2010, trade unions raised the issue of the peculiarity of the teaching profession on hours of work and suggested a 10 hour working week which would translate to a 26 day month for teachers.
Rari explained that the employer (DPSM) then requested for more time to study the proposal and also come up with their own. While other issues were resolved, this issue, leave versus vacation, non-teaching duties, just to mention a few remained outstanding, he added.
At subsequent meetings, the Secretary General explained – the employer remained reluctant to adopt the 10 hour working week / 26 day month as suggested by unions but could not provide a solution to the impasse. In fact he said as from the engagement of the sectoral bargaining unit this issue has been with cabinet as from 2010.
“At the beginning of 2011 teacher unions conducted nation- wide consultation with teachers on this matter and teachers resolved that they would stick to the 8 hour working duration per day from 0730hrs – 1630hrs and would not work beyond these times including on rest days.”
He noted that this brought sporting and some other academic activities done after hours and during weekends (rest days) to a halt. “We saw 2011 and part of 2012 going without sporting activities. These also included perniciously the subject enrichment activities e.g.: subject fairs, remedial teachings etc.”
It is understood that in 2012 the Ministry of Education through Permanent Secretary Mrs. Grace Muzila opened dialogue once more with teacher unions regarding the impasse (non – participation of teachers in sporting and non-teaching activities).
It was agreed at these consultations that a joint (unions and MoESD) consultation process with teachers be conducted regarding the application of overtime to teachers as per provisions of the labour statutes (Employment Act).
Following the consultation process it was agreed between teacher unions and MoESD that teachers could work overtime including during rest days and the overtime would be regulated by the provisions of the Public Service Act & the Employment Act.
Back then teachers resumed providing service after normal hours and during rest days as per authorization by supervisors hence the commencement of sporting and educational enrichment activities.
However WeekendPost understands that the impasse to halt overtime activities in schools has again come back to haunt the ministry (MoESD) while students are likely to suffer most as they are always the victims due to these disagreements between teachers/unions and the ministry.
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.
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.
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.”