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Teaching is essential, but it is not an Essential Service!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

It is clear that government is intent on declaring teaching an essential service and, therefore, legally taking the right to strike from Teachers. This is evidenced by government’s tabling of the Trade Dispute Act Amendment Bill which, inter alia, seeks to declare teaching an essential service.

This is not the first time government attempts to declare teaching an essential service. Prior to 2014, government, through Statutory Instrument No. 57 of 2011, made by the then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele, under Section 49, declared teaching, veterinary services, diamond sorting and transport services as essential services.

Fortunately, Justice Professor Oagile Key Dingake reversed the decision, declaring section 49 of the Trade Disputes Act incompatible with the Constitution and thus invalid. He also declared as invalid Statutory Instrument No. 57 of 2011, made under Section 49.

It will be remembered with delight that on 22nd April 2014 the Court of Appeal (CoA) upheld Justice Professor Dingake’s ruling. The appeal to the CoA concerned the extent to which, if at all, Parliament has the power to delegate its constitutionally conferred legislative function to the Executive.

Justice Ian Kirby, with Justices Lord Alistair Abernethy, Isaac Lesetedi, Monametsi Gaongwalelwe and Lord Arthur Hamilton concurring, held that the decision as to which services or categories of services should be classified as essential services is an important policy matter properly to be debated in Parliament and to be subjected to public scrutiny.

The Justices of Appeal held that “…this is more so because, in the case of the teachers and other public servants … the right to strike was only fairly recently conferred upon them by an Act of Parliament, after full debate.”  

Government needs to be commended for, owing to its respect for the rule of law, obliging to the ruling of the CoA, and now seeking to bring the amendments through Parliament. From a procedural point of view, the major complaint now seems to be that government took the Bill to Parliament before full consultations with such stakeholders as Teachers themselves and their respective trade unions.      

In this article, we discuss whether, from a substantive point of view, teaching is an essential service. It ought to be stated upfront that the article is informed by an Equal Education Position Paper on Teaching as an Essential Service of February 2013. The position paper, written in the South African context, is based on a document prepared for Equal Education by Debbie Budlender.

Botswana is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It is on record that the Freedom of Association Committee of the Governing Body of the ILO (hereinafter referred to as The Committee) has repeatedly confirmed that education cannot be considered an essential service whatever the circumstances.
The Committee has made it clear that declaring teaching an essential service – and thus outlawing strikes by Teachers – is neither a reasonable nor justifiable criteria for limiting any right in a member State’s laws of which the right to strike is one.

Botswana, in 1997, ratified the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention 87 which aims at safeguarding the free exercise by workers and employers alike of the right to organize for furthering and defending their interests.

Further, still in 1997, Botswana ratified the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 98 which further elaborates the rights set forth in convention 87. The convention aims at protecting workers exercising the right to organize, preventing interference in workers and employers organizations and promoting voluntary collective bargaining.

Particularly with respect to the public service, Botswana, still in 1997, ratified the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention, which guarantees the right to organize for workers in the public sector.

The aforesaid conventions, which Botswana ratified, unequivocally confirm, among others, the rights of workers to organize into trade unions, with the right to strike as an “intrinsic corollary” (ILO, 2006: 523).

There is no doubt that teaching is essential. The question is: is teaching an essential service in the strict definition of the word? Internationally, an essential service is defined as a service the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population.

The question then becomes: can the interruption of teaching endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of our population? In my view, it cannot and that seems to be the view of the international community. It seems to be accepted internationally that Teachers should enjoy the right to strike.   

In 1966, at the Special Intergovernmental Conference on the Status of Teachers, held in Paris, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a resolution which in part stated that “… Appropriate joint machinery should be set up to deal with the settlement of disputes between the teachers and their employers arising out of terms and conditions of employment…”

The resolution continued to say “… If the means and procedures established for these purposes should be exhausted or if there should be a breakdown in negotiations between the parties, teachers' organizations should have the right to take such other steps as are normally open to other organizations in the defence of their legitimate interests.” It is submitted that the phrase  ‘ take such other steps as are normally open to other organizations in the defence of their legitimate interests’ refers to industrial action, including as strikes.

According to the fifth edition of the Digest published in 2006 (para 541), The Committee has repeatedly emphasized that “the prohibition of strikes could only be acceptable in the case of public servants exercising authority in the name of the State [such as justice or police] or of workers in essential services in the strict sense of the term, i.e. services whose interruption could endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population (541, 581)”.
 
Incontrovertible examples of essential services in the strict sense of the term include those in the schedule of essential services in the Trade Disputes Act, 2003, namely Air traffic control services, health services, sewage services, water services, fire services, e.t.c. Including teaching in this list is an unreasonable and unjustifiable limitation of the right to strike by teachers.

Commenting on the Trade Dispute Act Amendment Bill in Parliament recently Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said “…we can allow them to strike but for a few hours…” citing the case of Britain which she said allows teachers to strike only for two hours. But, would it be constitutional to limit the teachers’ right to strike to a time period?

I submit that it would not. Besides, it would make the right to strike meaningless because the employer would make arrangements for the two hours, for example, and would not suffer any detriment that can force it to consider the teachers’ demands. The power of a strike is to make the employer suffer detriment for an indefinite period of time, and if that is taken away a strike becomes meaningless.

While it is acknowledged that what constitutes endangerment to the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population may differ from country to country and that, a non-essential service may become essential if a strike lasts a long time (Digest: 582), it has also been stated that the meaning of essential services might lose its meaning if it was applied to services that do not endanger life, personal safety or the health of the population (Digest: 583).

Dr. Moitoi is further quoted as saying “…if indeed we want better education for our children, we cannot let teachers strike for months…” That is true. But, it is equally true that if indeed we want better education we cannot let teachers grievances go on for months for an unhappy teacher cannot deliver quality education to our children.

Besides, the possibility that teachers can strike for months does not justify taking away their right to strike. It has been rightly stated that the possible long-term consequences of strikes in the teaching sector do not justify their prohibition (Digest: 590).

In the result, government should consider other options before taking away the right to strike from teachers. For example, though I do not fully agree with setting time limits for a strike, Dr. Moitoi’s suggestion may be an option provided the time limit given is reasonable, say one month.

Also, teaching may remain as a non-essential service, but a provision be made for a minimum operational service. Rather than outlawing strikes for teachers, there can be a requirement that a limited number of specified types of workers are available to do work deemed necessary during the strike. However, this should not entail “calling into question the right to strike of the large majority of workers” (Digest: 607).

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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