Another national exams crisis looming

Teachers at teachers day
Teachers at teachers day

A national examinations crisis is looming as teachers unions yesterday threatened a repeat of the 2010 exams debacle owing to aborted talks on course work and invigilation rates.

After a ‘walkout’ from a meeting scheduled between unions and the education ministry yesterday morning, where the two issues were to take centre stage, Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) leadership vowed in a joint media briefing that “history will recur”. 

They said the ‘good relationship’ once enjoyed by the two parties has deteriorated.

BOSETU acting president, Mogomotsi Motshegwa accused the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Unity Dow, and her permanent secretary- Richard Matlhare, of undermining the importance of the national examinations after the duo failed to show up at the meeting.  The meeting was scheduled for 10:30 am yesterday at the education headquarters, where the educationists allege they waited for hours with a no show.

“This is a total disregard to the collective bargaining process. I must also highlight that this is not the first time the minister has done this, and afterwards lame excuses are given for her failure to turn up.

“We have always raised numerous pending issues in the education sector that we feel are directly linked to the decline in academic performance and until they are addressed, the situation will remain the same,” he said.

Motshegwa cited as pending issues: course work and invigilation; hours of work; levels of operations in the teaching fraternity; and the proposed 26 days pay for teachers instead of 22 days.

“It is a great disappointment and concern that talks for course work and invigilation, and other pending issues in the teaching fraternity did not materialise yesterday. If the ministry continues with this attitude we see a repeat of what transpired in 2010,” he said. 

The two unions further announced an intense public education targeting parents, teachers associations nationwide, Members of Parliament and the traditional leadership on the impact of the course work and investigation delays, as well as a cohort of pending issues to the public education status.

“We are prepared to squeeze the lemon a bit more until we get the lemon juice,” said Motshegwa.

For his part, BTU acting president Kenathata Dipogiso said Dow’s leadership, unlike her predecessors, lacks mutual understanding and the will to resolve issues.

“The current minister is not addressing issues with the attitude that is needed to move our education forward. Venson-Moitoi was always willing to meet and dialogue.

“We are now entering the third term but invigilation and coursework rates have not been agreed on. Is it not the start of manifestation of poor results?” he asked.

The acting president also said they are left with no option but advice their members against undertaking these duties since it is not certain whether or not they will be remunerated.

Dipogiso said as representatives of teachers, they have a task to bargain and negotiate for the welfare of members, as well as to safeguard the integrity of the profession and its output.

“We have a system that promotes anarchy. As a result, as trade unions we don’t want to promote a situation where just anyone can be brought into the classroom to invigilate, we care about education and learners’ future. Therefore, we must guard against that and ensure professionalism,” he explained.

Another thing that left educators fuming is an alleged statement by Matlhare, who apparently questioned the legality of the consultative forum at which the course work and invigilation rates are negotiated.

In 2010, national exams were written under unstable and hostile conditions surrounded by controversy following a 2009 court order, in which coursework and invigilation were pronounced as non-teaching core duties.

The public relations officer in the MoESD Silas Sehularo confirmed that Dow and Matlhare failed to show up at the said meeting on time, due to an engagement with the vice- president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, which was expected to run for an hour.

“It is true we met Wednesday with the two unions and the PS where a number of issues in education were discussed, and another one was scheduled for yesterday with the minister,” said Sehularo.

However Sehularo said they had communicated with the unions that MoESD officials had another engagement that occurred at 9 am, which took longer than expected.

“They got delayed as the agenda took longer and the minister requested that we reschedule because she was still held up. When we proposed a reschedule the unionists said they were leaving to discuss the issue among themselves and would come back to us,” he said.

Sehularo however disputed allegations that the education minister habitually dishonours appointments.

“It is not true that the minister has a habit of dishonouring appointments with teachers unions, and that her attitude is not good to address issues in education. She has committed to meet with them regularly but other pressing engagements can always surface,” he said.

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