At just 26 years, Kenathata Dipogiso was defying the prophesy of his own first name, which seemed to suggest that he was destined to be a weakling. He had become the opposite of his name, Kenathata, and managed to challenge and wrestle the position of regional chairmanship in one of the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) regions, the BOTSWATUMA region, made up of Mahalapye South, Shoshong, Mookane, Mokobeng, Sefhare, Machaneng and Kalamare, among others.
At 30, he was fighting another battle for the deputy secretary General of the BTU, his first attempt at a seat in the BTU board. He was not successful, but Dipogiso had tasted blood. Today he is the second in command as deputy President of the BTU. He was only 33, when he was elected the deputy president of the BTU in 2013.
In fact Dipogiso says at the time he was actually gunning for the highest post possible, the Presidency, but his fellow comrades thought he should rather settle for the No.2 because he was still too young.
He had to listen to the feedback he was getting from his fellow trade unionists and stood for the deputy president post. “ To be honest, I felt ready for the top post. Despite my age, I felt I was the most experienced for the post; I had been in the BTU structures as regional chairperson, as well as having served in the BTU National Executive Committee (NEC), as a regional representative for three years.” “Some people feared that coming into the BTU presidency at such a tender age may result in me becoming the life president of the BTU,” remembers Dipogiso, two years on. As the deputy BTU President, Dipogiso has experienced it all; at times he has been the Acting BTU President, when the BTU president Johannes Tshukudu is outside the office on other union or national assignments. Looking back, Dipogiso is of the view that teachers have been winning many important labour relations battles, or negotiations with the employer.
He singles out the Level of Operations (LOO) as one of the best positive changes that ever happened to the teachers in Botswana, resulting in teachers who were previously at C2, moving a salary scale higher. “What it means is that no teacher at C2 scale today earns les than P10,000; teachers are among the well paid civil servants today; except for the problems we have with senior teachers at primary schools not being treated to be at par with their counterparts in secondary schools, and the principal education officers earning less than headmasters, the LOO has been a very big victory for the teachers,” observes Dipogiso.
He says it is all due to sectoral bargaining where the teachers’ union and the Ministry sit down to discuss labour related matters, outside the Bargaining Council.
Dipogiso is also very happy that last year, the Ministry of Education and the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) ensured that the negotiations for examinations fees were not protracted to the disadvantage of the students. “ There have been very few complaints from invigilation of the examinations or marking, compared to the past,” observed Dipogiso.
As a teacher Dipogiso is based in Topisi, a stone’s throw from his home village of Serowe. He has learnt to commute between the work place and the BTU headquarters.
He may not be full time in the office of BTU, but Dipogiso is the first to accept that trade unionism is a full time job as its activities and schedules are very demanding.
“ I see myself as a traditionalist, despite my age; I still find time to do traditional farming, and go to the cattle post
Financial Literacy For Teachers
Dipogiso is of the view that more financial rewards for teachers through the LOO have had their own down side, as more loan sharks targeted them, resulting in instances whereby many teachers’ salaries are over stretched. “ We need to teach them life skills; how they can use their salaries to improve themselves rather than swimming in pools of debts.” Dipogiso says while there is a marked improvement in teachers’ salaries, there remains worrying disparity between teachers of C1 scales and D4 scales
The trade unionist also observes that the duties of teachers still need to be well defined to avoid worrying situations whereby teachers perform such non-teaching duties as treasury for their schools, supervising feeding, boarding school allowances.
Dipogiso is also of the view that government seems to be reluctant to upskill teachers to masters and doctorate levels. “There are very few teachers at primary and secondary school levels with Masters and PhD’s. We believe this could go a long way in improving our academic performances.