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Woes awaits MoESD beginning of 2015

BOSETU Secretary Genera, Tobokani Rari

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.

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