In order to address constant disregard of teachers’ rights and guard against violation of their interests, Botswana Teachers’ Union (BTU) is working on placing shop stewards in every school around the country.
Speaking on Tuesday in Gaborone BTU Secretary General Ibo Kenosi, said it has come to their attention that government with the aid of school managers were on a fault finding mission and were out to get teachers for all the wrong reasons. "School libraries and offices have been turned into disciplinary hearing rooms where teachers are made to face unfair trials and are later reprimanded,” he said.
Kenosi said that although at national level, teachers unions are involved and consulted by the Ministry of education on issues that affect teachers, they had since realised that school management do not seek the input of trade union shop stewards whenever decisions concerning teachers are made at school and regional levels.
According to Kenosi they have already embarked on a training project for the shop stewards from all 58 regions that BTU has presence in. The motive he says will be to demand that they be the eyes and ears of the union on the ground. They will then represent the union in their respective regions. “They are going to be trained on labour laws, the public service act and other areas. One thing we are going to stress to them is that they should know that we are in the struggle, we are in this to fight for teachers’ rights,” added the BTU publicity secretary Tidimalo Maeletso.
This prevalent disregard for teacher’s rights and interests according to the BTU executive is the main reason why the country’s education system is in crisis. Kenosi warned that should government continue to disregard addressing problems from the grassroots and paying attention to relevant advice then the current education crisis might worsen. He bemoaned the reluctance and lack of cooperation with teachers trade union more especially that the government had since adopted. Among the main issues that Kenosi feel government should first iron out when trying to address the problem include hours of work, levels of operation, accommodation crisis in schools, resources in schools, class sizes, further training of teachers, absence of progression paths in some subjects, water crisis in some schools and statuses of sectorial engagements.
Although he said the issues are similarly detrimental to the quality of education provided in Botswana, Kenosi spoke with emphasis on hours of work in the teaching service and levels of operation which he said were weighing badly on teachers welfare and lowering their morale.
According to Kenosi since the implementation of the public service Act in 2010 the issue of hours of work in the teaching service has up to now, almost five years down the lane, not been resolved. “There is no doubt that owing to the dispensation that was ushered by the aforementioned Act, the daily operational activities of a teacher go far beyond the normal eight hours,” he said. This he says in their view is one of the major factors impacting negatively in teaching and learning in schools.
According to Kenosi because of the eight working hours per day as introduced by the Public Service Act in line with the international labour standards, activities such as remedial lessons, enrichment activities, supervision of course work projects, subject fairs, sporting activities and others have greatly been compromised as teachers , in accordance with the law, only go beyond the normal working hours provided the employer agrees to pay them overtime. “Our view as the teacher unions is that, there is need for a long-term solution to this challenge, which negatively impacted on the quality of education in the country,” he said.
Although government and teacher unions have since agreed on the unravelling levels of operation model, Kenosi said the model has since been marred by irregularities. He said the unclear implementation of the model has led to some supervisors sharing a scale with teachers who are supposed to be under their supervision. “The two cannot share the same scale as this would pose serious administrative challenges,” he said.
BTU currently boast of over 18 000 members nationwide out of 26 000 registered teachers in Botswana.