The predicament of unemployment is a critical part of any economy, but it becomes unacceptable when the crisis matures to graduate unemployment. Such crisis occupies the centre stage of economic planning of any country that bothers about the future of its citizens.
Measures to ensure that public funds committed towards skills acquisition do not run to waste should be put in place. Essentially, it means when a country plans its economic policy interventions, there is prominent need to synchronise all sectors and plans to achieve unified progress simultaneously.
Surprisingly, insurmountable challenges are pronounced in gigantic proportions in the teaching sector.
We acknowledge that the nature of problems in this sector transcends merely unemployment of trained teachers. We however find that this problem has a dominant role in the crises that continue to besiege the sector. We therefore seek to create awareness on this specific matter and hereby submit to our authorities and the nation at large, the plight of trained unemployed teachers.
Statistics reveal that trained teachers remain unemployed despite the fact that public funds were utilised to train them on various subjects and at varying levels, being primary, junior and senior secondary. Statistics from the Teaching Service Management (TSM) reveal that candidates who graduated with specific skills in Religious Education, Setswana and Moral Education in 2008 remain unemployed, Physical Education, Social Studies graduates of 2009 continues to roam the streets. Home Economics and Biology teachers of 2012 have no jobs and Science teachers of 2013 also lack employment. More seriously, the class of 2007 Agriculture are out in the cold.
The government has continued to train more teachers in the same subjects in the subsequent years until present date without any plans to absorb those already without jobs. Ironically in the same subjects; almost all institutions of teaching continue to experience the influx of students and a sluggish recruitment of teachers, causing a teacher-student ratio crisis. We briefly catalogue below a few schools to illustrate the seriousness of this crisis:
Ledumadumane JSS 76 per class,
Mogoditshane JSS 61 per class, and
Ditsweletse JSS 61 class.
This is simply a serious planning crisis.
We experience an unbecoming phenomenon of administrative impropriety regarding recruitment of teachers. This is partly due to lack of procedural clarity relating to what fashion and shape the recruitment has to take.
It is assumed that for permanent positions recruitment doesn’t require advertisement, rather a sequential selection from the list of graduates is done.
We experience spontaneous problems of deliberate errors of preferential treatment of certain individuals being absorbed without adherence to this procedure. All clarity given by authorities in those circumstances is clumsy and lack reasonableness.
This has disadvantaged deserving candidates who had legitimately expected to be absorbed sooner, only to be told that errors committed led to their omission from the list. This is as unjust and intolerable as it is corrupt.
Regarding temporary teachers, there is no recruitment procedure and this breeds corruption and nepotism equally. There are candidates who are continually given offers on temporary basis without a break whilst others are not considered for any. Similarly, fresh graduates access the market easily at the expense of those who graduated years back. This leaves more questions than answers because one is clueless as to the kind of procedure they have to follow in order to be given contractual employment.
It is also badly unfair as one may not successfully lodge a complaint where there is no procedure. There is need for procedural clarity and fairness so that every interested candidate may be empowered knowledge of the rightful process to following in order to acquire temporary employment.
As if that is not enough, temporarily employed teachers are not granted maternity leave, rather they have their contracts terminated on account of pregnancy. This is serious discriminatory conduct by government and borders on infringement of human rights.
Government as an employer should be the champion of workplace rights and freedoms, not to assume a dictatorial role of determining when and how one wants to bear and grow their children or plan their families.
We also advocate vehemently against this contractual employment thing. It is precarious and exploitative as one cannot plan and develop their professional careers effectively. It is also not in the best interest of service to employ teachers on a two months basis
The teacher-student psychological relationship should not be a temporary arrangement that can be halted at any time as is the fashion in the teaching service today.
One needs to identify students’ specific needs and decipher rightful strategies and methodologies that befit their conditions. Government should realise the need to employ teachers on a permanent basis. This need is uncontested as clearly there demand in all institutions as is also demonstrated by government continued training of more teachers. We are also of the view that government is not committed to its localisation policy especially with private teaching institutions. There are still huge numbers of foreign teachers providing services which Batswana teachers are properly versed with.
Without sounding xenophobic, we are of the view that Batswana first is the correct approach in empowering citizens. The government has done considerably well in replacing foreign personnel with locals, especially on subjects where there is evidence of sufficient training of locals. Government must move to regulate the influx of foreign teachers in private institutions in order to create employment positions for locals. Exceptions can only be reasonable where imported skills are extremely scarce and unattainable in the country’s labour market.
For example, we can import a French teacher from elsewhere, but surely it still puzzles us why Science, English etc teachers are imported from Zimbabwe. This situation is so preposterous that we experience an 80% importation rate.
The peculiarity of teaching is such that once trained, a graduate will be a teacher. It is only on rare occasions that teachers ultimately venture into other terrains in the economy, and in most cases this comes with further training.
This requires for government to realise that training teachers and ultimately not employing them is a waste of government resources.
Government must be seen to be committed to ameliorate the problem of unemployment of teachers, not to exacerbate it. Currently, we face this predicament of either unemployment or perpetual contractual engagement which will ultimately throw us in the peripheries of the labour market.
Apparently government has taken a decision that when we reach 45 without permanent employment, we would never be employed on that basis, rather on perpetual contracts. Surprisingly, government still harbours teachers of the oldest of ages that transcend retirement age, for example, on contract. The situation is extremely confusing and government doesn’t seem to have any readable plan or direction regarding this plethora of problems.
The past 10 years has revealed crisis after crisis in the education sector generally. One mentions dilapidated infrastructure, double shifts crisis, austerity in public education funding, results crisis, the strike etc.
These are problems that looked intransigent for the government to tackle, but worst policy to ever been introduced is the internship programme fashioned as the “teacher-intern” in our sector.
This scheme has killed jobs and shrunk the value of education altogether. Though trained, one engaged in such an exploitative and undignified human resource practice is not bound to add value to the service.
Their income doesn’t match their qualifications, but they perform duties pegged at rates within the grading system. They teach with fellow graduates. They earn paltry wages. They are less motivated and unwilling to produce as good as they would if they were paid well.
The government labour policy crisis is much more defined here. There are vacancies and demand for such vacancies is pronounced and supply overflows. We find highly unreasonable to have a serious problem of unemployed teachers/ teacher interns in a labour market where demand and supply are almost at equilibrium.
Finally, we urge all members of the civic society, the trade unions, the churches and the general public to hear our plight and extend us an olive branch as we will be embarking on a peaceful demonstration to create awareness on the above issues.
The demonstration will be in the form of a long distance march from Mahalapye to Gaborone where we will be handing a petition to the Minister of Basic Education.
*Kesaobaka Ditshike is an unemployed graduate teacher