We applaud the Botswana men’s 4 x 400 relay team for the gallant sprint into world glory at the recent IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas where they won a silver medal. This was not an easy feat, especially facing the world’s greatest in athletics. It is a result of tireless training efforts by the dedicated athletes and their coaches. The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) should also be applauded for their sacrifice, patience and support, despite facing serious limited resources. We take off our hats to our dedicated primary, secondary and tertiary educators who are unsung heroes and heroines when the toasting, wining and dining is done. The sports teachers have spent hours on end training and grooming such athletes from grassroot level under extremely trying circumstances under Botswana Primary Schools Association (BOPSA), Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) and Botswana Tertiary Schools Association (BOTESA). Hundreds of teachers have great passion and skills in sports development. If the government seriously invested in school sports, Botswana could do wonders in various sporting codes. But the government has its priorities so wrong. Instead of allowing teachers to sprint with their athletes, here is a government that breaks all the domestic laws and International Labour Organisation conventions and classifies them as essential. The reason being to curtail their bargaining power, especially when they negotiate hours of work, including hours spent at the sports ground training students. Such curtailment came through the Cabinet Ministers who will, at the slightest opportunity, gleefully jump at any world class glory brought by the products of the teaching profession. We call on the government to pay the teachers and help develop our sports from all levels, and not only wait to lift the trophy.
Recently, the government released a savingram that reduced teachers’ overtime claims, substantially making teachers slaves of their profession. The country is lucky to have teachers who are highly intrinsically motivated in both class and sports field, though grossly exploited. Here are teachers who endlessly sleep on classroom floors and spend hours on end with a pittance for coaching appreciation. These are the same teachers who have gone for years without salary increment. The same teachers who had to go to court or demonstrate for policies and directives to be implemented in their favour like parallel progression, scarce skills, levels of operation, etc. The BNF has long called for the promotion of sporting activities and supporting such institutions as a way of creating jobs and diversifying the economy. In its 1999 manifesto, the BNF states that “it recognises the need for the promotion of Sport for Leisure, competitions, health, etc and under the BNF government, a comprehensive sport policy shall be formulated which will demonstrate the political commitment of the BNF towards the development of sport and recreation...The BNF belief that the development of sport through active government participation and, support unlike in the current BDP set up, can help eradicate social ills such as poverty, crime and spread of diseases and result in a nation proud of itself. To achieve positive result and glory in the international sporting arena, requires careful, and long term planning, which is what the BNF undertakes to do once voted into power”. But the BDP led government has openly stated that they want to restrain teachers (go ba khiina, in former Minister of Education words, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi) who then proceeded to propose that teachers be classified as essential services cadres. Teachers do not deserve such and this has gone for too long. The teachers have proposed a 24-days calendar which will allow them to have more time at the grounds and nurture more champions, but the Cabinet has refused this. We however call upon the educators and their respective trade unions being Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) not to surrender but unite to claim what is rightly theirs. Once more, we hail the great 4x 400m relay team, their coaches and management the well deserved smiles and pride you have brought among Batswana. We wish you great success in the forthcoming World Olympics in London and any other international engagements.
Botswana National Front Publicity Secretary