Unresolved issues at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) are likely to disrupt the teaching practice in the coming year unless the government comes up with a very good strategy before the beginning of the year.
Firstly, the Ministry has to find a way of absorbing all the displaced teachers who it has been paying for the past twelve months for sitting idle at home without any work.
At the beginning of this year, the Ministry decided to pilot the schools of excellence policy on Music subject at senior schools and has failed to provide the teachers with students.
According to one of the music teachers, the Ministry is failing to provide the students because the music syllabus chosen is too complex and students fail the subject every year.
“Students are not choosing the subject because they do not want to spoil their overall results. The syllabus is very difficult than the one used at the local Colleges of Education, hence the Ministry had to send teachers for further training outside the country,” the teacher explained.
Sometimes in 2011, the Ministry decided that the subjects of Music, Physical Education and Design and Technology will only be taught in what they referred to as schools of excellence. The implication of the decision was that the teaching of the three subjects will be reduced to take place in selected schools each, across the country.
The decision was allegedly taken without due consultation especially with the teacher’s unions as custodians of teacher welfare. As a consequence some of the teachers spent the whole year without teaching owing to the fact that the schools have been reduced hence reducing the vacancies within the subject.
“These subjects have been operating on pilot for the past twelve years without any paths of progression and our view is that these teachers have been subjected to very unfair and discriminatory labour practice,” explained the Secretary General of Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Tobokani Rari.
Rari alleges that consideration was not given to what would happen to teachers offering those subjects when the number of schools offering them was being shrinked to only five. He further stated that the consequence of this not so well unthought-of decision has now come to haunt not only the Ministry of Education, but the teachers as well.
Another problem that the Ministry has to deal with urgently is the payment of overtime allowances for teachers or it would be slapped with lawsuits and the teachers would refuse to do extra works.
BOSETU insists that it would no longer tolerate a situation whereby teachers conduct remedial lessons, enrichment activities and supervise course work after hours and sporting activities during weekends unless the Ministry compensate them accordingly.
BOSETU secretary general, Tobokani Rari says his union is of the view that the government is all out to exploit teachers by making them work extremely long hours and not compensate them.
“Teachers who have worked both after hours and during the rest days have not been compensated. In our view such exploitation and disregard of the statutes can no longer be tolerated,” Rari pointed out.
The conflict on this issue dates back to year 2010 when the Public Service replaced the teaching service Act and introduced fixed working hours for all the civil service employees. When the Public Service Act (PSA) was implemented it became apparent that teachers needed to comply with the provisions of the Employment Act and the international labour standards regulating the hours of work.
The act required that employees could work for a maximum of 8 hours in a day unless if engaged to work overtime. This meant that a lot of other activities such as remedial lessons, enrichment activities, supervision of coursework, sporting activities, and others fell outside the realm of the stipulated hours.
At transitional negotiations in 2010, that is, negotiations meant for the purposes of a swift movement from the old act (Teaching Service Act) to the new Act (PSA), trade unions proposed a separate arrangement of working hours of teachers because of the peculiarity of the job. The trade unions proposed a 26 day model as a way of resolving the hours of work issue.
The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) however thought that the proposed model was too complex and would be costly and the unions maintained that it would be much cheaper as it would only add ten extra hours per week for the teachers. From the ten hours, eight hours will constitute a day hence the sixth day in a week. This would make teachers to transform to a bracket of employees who are paid for 26 days at the end of the month hence having an additional remuneration of four days per month.
“This is a model that we have persistently put forward to government as the lasting solution to the notorious hours of work issue. Government instead has not been forthcoming to discuss the 26 day model as proposed by the trade unions, but instead has resorted to engaging teachers on overtime.”
However the Government had previously expressed the fear that the 26 day model will be expensive and preferred to resort to engaging teachers on overtime. In spite of this believe by government, it is now proving that overtime is not coming any cheaper. Of recent the employer has been decreeing huge expenditure on overtime for teachers and made desperate attempts to alter overtime rules as provided for in the Employment Act.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development insist on payment of fifty percent of hours worked as days off and another half paid off in monetary terms, but BOSETU has advised its members to desist from carrying overtime in case that the employer pre – determines the conditions under which the overtime is to be worked in such a plot.
“We have seen government clearly and fragrantly bypassing and bending the laws regulating overtime through unlawful savingrams authored by DPSM and the Ministry of Education. Such instructions have put teachers and school managements on a collision course. We have huge number of teachers whose authorized overtime engagements have not been paid out as government shifts goal posts on overtime payments.”
BOSETU is of the view that Education Ad hoc Sectoral Bargaining structure which worked well during Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Permanent Secretary Grace Muzila’s management has become defunct and has ceased to meet.
The union has therefore called on the Vice President who doubles as the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Permanent Secretary Dr Richard Matlhare to get the structure up again and resolve the mess that is besieging their Ministry. The structure according to the union did help in addressing issues of industrial relations and teacher welfare.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.