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Low teacher morale

MMAOTHO SEGOTSO
Teachers are the foundation on which every nation is built given that teaching is mother of all professions.

They are the engine in the education system, literally. Not only do they teach, they provide children with the necessary motivation they need to succeed. Teachers need to be encouraged and supported so they are efficient and effective. Failure to do so results in low teacher morale.

Teacher morale is defined as, “the job satisfaction, outlook and feelings of wellbeing a teacher has within the workplace setting…overall viewpoint of teachers about their work environment. It also includes teachers’ emotions, attitude and satisfaction…collective feelings and attitudes of a teacher group as related to their duties, responsibilities, goals, supervisors, fellow workers and students”.

Teaching is an emotional job, as one serves people. Thus, teacher morale has a direct bearing on students’ performance: the higher the teacher morale, the higher the students’ performance; the lower the teacher morale; the lower the students’ performance.

There are many factors negatively affecting teacher morale: one such is lack of recognition by supervisors, the society and government. Despite the importance of teaching and the amount of work teachers do, nobody recognises and appreciates them. An example is when learners do well and get excellence awards, at the top table sits the Minister, Permanent Secretaries and Directors and maybe School Heads (SH). The teachers who toiled and bled aren’t even mentioned.

Another example is of recognition of sports stars. When athletes excel on the world stage, praises go to national team coaches and managers. Those who identified and nurtured raw talent are conveniently omitted. It is this kind of attitude that frustrates teachers.

Toxic work environment, has in many instances led to depression. Supervisors bully supervisees, throw their weight around threateningly making them cringe in fear. People only turn up because they need a salary. Sick teachers trudge to work, fearing fire spitting dragons.

During staff meetings junior teachers are afraid of talking for fear of being belittled. It is even sadder since it is these autocrats who recommend juniors for promotion. This has led to divisions, backstabbing, sabotage and a toxic culture of bolope in schools. Where there are divisions, teams collapse and learners suffer... One educator said, “You can’t do your job well if you are threatened, micromanaged and stripped of your autonomy.”

The stagnation demon bedevils teaching! The promotion structure is a pyramid…there are many teachers at the bottom with fewer opportunities of advancement. In a JSS, the SMT comprises 12 teachers out of +-40. This discourages teachers who end up not exerting themselves. Teacher unions long proposed that deserving teachers advance in terms of salaries but remain in class: a teacher be at D1 but still teach. This unions argued, will ensure government retains star performers.

Poor remuneration and exploitative tendencies by MOHIRI are marquee reasons for disgruntlement. Star performers have left for greener pastures. Those who remain are frustrated. It’s been ages since teacher unions proposed a separate pay structure for teachers. A structure drawn after benchmarking from countries with the world’s best labour practices. The proposal lies somewhere in the MoBE offices, gathering dust. It proposes that teachers be paid for 26 days instead of the current 22 days. The 26 days was going to cover overtime. During Khama regime, teachers have suffered gross exploitation as there was conflict over overtime payment. This has not only affected extra-curricular activities as some teacher taught weekends. BEC too takes advantage!  It is during the Khama decade that exam results began experiencing a downward spiral. Given that the current President is a teacher by training, teachers expected

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good things but alas!

I live in country where money is splashed everywhere but schools. When I was young, we were given books: at JC, I had over 20 textbooks. Today 300 learners share forty text books, resulting in conflict amongst teachers. Because there are no text books, teachers are forced to produce notes which the school can’t photocopy for learners. When teachers ask parents to photocopy for their children, parents flip. Teachers find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they are expected to magically produce results.

Large class size plagues all public school. It is discouraging to have 62 learners crammed up in one room and not having the freedom to be pedagogically creative.

Too much paper work is another stressor. Teaching comes with a lot of paperwork, stapling and packaging of test and exam papers have made teaching clerical. Already marking is stressful… Education officers also have added to that by bringing more stress. This week, it’s this research, the next that. Refusal is labelled insubordination. Where do teachers get the time to do this? The other problem with too much paper work is teachers take it home and nobody cares about how this affects the teacher’s family life. Teachers literally work 24hrs!

Even during ‘free periods’ teachers aren’t necessarily free as they are always buried in paperwork. This leaves little or no time for research, which is critical in teaching.

Why can’t government hire teacher aids to help with paperwork so that teachers focus on research, teaching and marking? Especially give the rates of youth unemployment!

Insufficient accommodation is another thorny issue. Government has failed to provide accommodation for public servants. Families share two bedroomed houses. How do people sleep? Picture two families of five each living in that small house?

There’s privacy as a result, conflict ensues and people then transfer the frustration to the work place. It is worse and discriminatory for singles as they are forced to share as a result of their status. The accommodation issue has divided schools right down the middle!

If a teacher requests to be transferred to their home where they have accommodation, still authorities refuse.

Evil practices by ministry officials of denying some teachers study leave and giving it to others has saddened many teachers. The MoBE study leave policy is for the officials’ eyes only and at times one is forced to believe it doesn’t even exist and officers use their own corrupt discretion when giving study leave. How do you expect a teacher who has taught for 20 years without promotion and having been denied study leave to be productive? Sadly, the victims are mostly star performers.

Politics too are one reason why teachers are bitter. In Botswana many managers suck up to the ruling party for reasons of wanting career advancement. These devils snitch on teachers that they suspect sympathise with opposition. Teachers viewed as been sympathetic to the opposition stand less chances of promotion. They are also frustrated at work.

Schools have become political battlefields and people are afraid to talk openly about current affairs as SHs have appointed spies who snitch. This environment of being stifled and gagged is heavy on teachers and they don’t perform well. 

Whether politicians like or not, the entire fate of the nation lies on the backs of teachers for poor education is the root cause of poverty and consequently the nation’s greatest security threat.

As a nation, “We don’t have a failing problem, we have a failing leadership problem.”



Educationally Speaking

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