The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has deferred the tabling of Botswana Teaching Council Bill to parliament following objections by trade unions.
On Wednesday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development ,Dr Raphael Dingalo, told The Patriot on Sunday that although his ministry had planned to present the bill to parliament during the current parliament sitting, reservations raised by unions will force them to postpone. “It appears we are going to miss this sitting of parliament and our target is now to present it in November after unions resubmit their queries,” he said.
MoESD held a consultative meeting in May in which unions and other stakeholders presented their input on the bill to government. It is at this meeting according to Dr Dingalo that unions highlighted their reservations and requested for a postponement. Some of the key issues raised by unions according to the Permanent Secretary include among others the request to include lecturers in the current definition of teaching. According to Dr Dingalo, unions had also requested to be given more time to go engage with other stakeholders. It is after ensuring that the unions concerns are adequately addressed that a final draft of the bill will be produced.
Meanwhile Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) Administrative Secretary Simon Mapolelo confirmed that teacher unions had jointly requested for an extension of their consultative meetings with their members. “We feel there is a need to give our members ample time to interrogate the bill as it addresses sensitive aspects of their employment,” said Mapolelo. According to Mapolelo MoESD had given them short period to make consultations.
One of the main reservations they have, he says, is the powers that the Minister of Education wields. The fact that the minister is given powers to appoint the council board according to Mapolelo does not sit well with them. “We want an independent board that will be able to make independent decisions that will not prejudice our members,” he said. However Dr Dingalo downplayed their fears saying that whatever decision the minister takes and make, do so in consultation and endorsement of the board, in which representatives from unions sit.
The objective of the bill is to establish a statutory body which will monitor the teaching profession. A memorandum from the MoESD states that this came about after a concern was raised about people who are employed to teach while they have no teaching qualifications or work ethics necessary to achieve effective teaching and learning in Botswana.
Among the functions stated the Botswana Teaching Council will include; regulating the teaching profession, maintaining professional and ethical standards for teachers, which includes teaching knowledge, skills and competence, licensing teachers, advocating for the teaching profession and maintaining a register for teachers.
The council is to be governed by a board which shall be responsible for the direction of the affairs and operations of the council. The board according to the draft bill will consist of among others the chairperson, three representatives from the three teacher unions, three representatives of teachers , including special education and school heads , one representative from Botswana Qualifications Authority and registered private institutions. All board members are to be appointed by the Minister of Education and Skills Development.