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Unions Issue Ultimatum Over Double Shifts

GOITSEMODIMO KAELO
SCHOOL WORK: Social distancing has necessitated double shifts PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Two teachers’ unions have given the Ministry of Basic Education an ultimatum to stop forcing teachers to teach across double shifts or risk a lawsuit.

Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) have jointly threatened legal action against the ministry for ‘breach of agreement’ on engaging additional teachers for primary schools re-opening during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period.

The morning and afternoon classes were re-introduced as COVID-19 protocols have forced schools to reduce the number of learners per class. However, the system has sparked yet another rift between teacher trade unions and the ministry as the former complain that their members are being forced to work overtime.

It has been reported that teachers at some primary schools are forced by regional authorities to teach across the shifts, a move that has been condemned by both BTU and BOSETU. The unions argue that such instructions are contrary to the spirit of the meeting of May 20, 2020, which agreed that additional teachers would be engaged for primary schools that need shifting.

BOSETU secretary-general, Tobokani Rari said while the ministry has acknowledged the infringement in some instances nothing has been done to correct it.

“We have corresponded with the Ministry of Basic Education registering our displeasure with the flagrant violation of the

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said agreement. We have since given them an ultimatum to stop the shift or else we will approach the court to seek remedy,” Rari said.

He added it was worrying that regional directors, school administrators who are on the ground, are the ones breaching the agreement.

Rari stated the situation has resulted in almost eight hours of learner contact for those teachers forced to teach across shifts.

The agreement between the ministry and unions was that every teacher would have contact time with learners of 5.5 hours maximum whilst the remaining hours are for other support teaching methods. 

The unions have also forwarded a list of schools where teaching across shifts by primary school teachers is happening as well as a list of schools that need shifting, but have not received extra teachers.

 According to the unions’ report, about 39 primary schools need shifting, but are yet to receive teachers while 24, including six primary schools in Gaborone have reported instances of teachers teaching across the shifts.

Union representatives have maintained that while there was pressure to open schools, the system has shown that it is not ready.



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