Disgruntled teachers at Mahupu Unified Secondary School in Takatokwane have expressed concern that they are forced to work overtime as the facility operates without clear guidelines three years on since its first intake in 2016.
The teachers who were slapped with new employment contracts after they raised concern with education authorities in what they view as a way to silence them say they have been forced to teach both Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) curricula.
Mahupu and Tsabong Unified Secondary School were established as pilot projects in 2016. But three years on, there have been reports that the institutions are facing several challenges affecting the teaching staff.
Some of the teachers who spoke to Mmegi on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said they have engaged Kweneng Regional office on the matter without any success.
“Kweneng Regional office is failing to address the issue of a unified school called Mahupu Unified Secondary School in Takatokwane. It is a pilot project for secondary schools to operate from Form 1 to form 5. But teachers are forced to teach across (both JC &BGCSE Syllabi at the same time), which has created problem,” said one of the teachers at the school.
He stated that there were 15 teachers who were recently employed specifically for senior school, but others who were teaching both the JC and BGCSE syllabi started asking questions because they felt it was unfair to them. Most of them, he said, complained that they were forced to teach more than eight periods a day. Those who are seen to be protesting were threatened or transferred.
“Some of the teachers who enquired about the issue were threatened and others were even transferred. Now many of us are given new letters of employment offer where they amended our contracts without our consent. They said the offer superseded the initial one. The offer is a new one, which is drafted exactly like the initial one and we have to accept the new and amended offer of employment. We have long requested the director to come and address the issue, but he indicated that the issue of unified school can only be addressed by the PS who also keeps dodging because he sent his officials some time last years when he was supposed to address the issue,” he added.
Another teacher asserted that it was surprising that the unified school continues to operate without the guidelines, which the authorities had promised to avail since its inception. He said authorities have resorted to the use of school head to threaten anyone who talks about the issue of operations. According to him, it is clear that government was clueless on running a unified school. Hence it has dragged this long to develop guidelines for the school.
Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) spokesperson Edwin Maitshoko said as a union, they were suspicious from the beginning that without clear establishment guideline, both unified schools would be problematic in the future.
“We were suspicious that we needed a clear establishment for the two schools. There are two curriculum and its like two schools in one and we have engaged the ministry on that with regards to how teachers should work, but it has taken a long time for the ministry to set the guidelines. Of course we are against teachers teaching across the JC and BGCSE syllabi,” he said.
Maitshoko said they are still awaiting feedback from the ministry following their recent engagement on the matter.
“At the moment, we cannot say much because we have been in discussion with the ministry on the two schools because its not just Mahupu but also Tsabong. We will see how it goes, but one thing we have advocated for is to have two deputy school heads in each school responsible for secondary and senior respectively,” he added.
On government side, the Minister of Basic Education Bagalatia Arone agreed indeed it has taken them time to establish guidelines, but they would complete the process soon.
“I am still awaiting a full brief from the directors on the issue relating to the unified schools. I know the teachers are complaining that they don’t want to teach across the two syllabi, although it is now a global practice, but we are looking at different options to deal with the matter because at the end the solution that we come up with should reduce the number of periods slightly,” he said.
Arone also said he intended to visit the two schools soon to engage with the teachers to get their full view on the issue. He explained that they did not anticipate some of the issues, but have since realised that they could not be compromised.