FRANCISTOWN: The decision by government to put up security surveillance in secondary schools without proper consultation with the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) did not sit well with the latter.
The union leaders are furious that the government has taken a decision to place secondary schools under security surveillance without their input on the matter.
“We are important stakeholders in the school environment so it is disrespectful for the government to make decisions that affect schools and learning institutions without consulting us. We should not read things from the newspapers and (get them from) the grapevine,” BOSETU secretary general, Tobokani Rari said yesterday.
BOSETU is one of the leading education sector unions in the country, with majority of its membership being secondary education teachers.
Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi was quoted in the media early this week saying that his ministry recently started placing secondary schools under constant security surveillance. The Minister revealed that the move is meant to fight escalating drug abuse among students.
Kgathi said the ministry was working in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
However, Rari expressed fear that security surveillance in schools may intimidate teachers and students alike.
“The school environment should be free. But, bringing in any issues of security surveillance has the potential to affect the students and teachers psychologically, which may hinder learning and teaching respectively,” Rari argued.
He noted that schools have structures that help them deal with students who are in drugs. “The complexity of drugs might have changed for the worst over the years, but the systems in schools that deal with drugs are also very effective, which does not warrant any surveillance,” said Rari.
He further said the union is of the view that issues of indiscipline in shools should be left to teachers, who are the ones trained to deal with those who use drugs and difficult students.
Instead of placing schools under surveillance, Rari suggested that government should hire fulltime counsellors in schools across the country in a bid to address drug problems.
“In fact, some teachers were trained as counsellors, but instead of doing their counselling roles they were deployed to teach the subjects they were initially trained for before they were train as counsellors. I am one of those teachers,” Rari revealed.
Rari added that the union leadership is meeting in two weeks and one of the agendas will be the issue on school surveillance by the government.
He said: “After the meeting we will possibly approach the education ministry to seek clarity on the issue”.
Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), Master Goya said that there was no need to inform the leadership of unions about the surveillance when the school management is aware of the initiative. He said that the initiative started with a briefing of education regional directors last week.
He said that this is because management mostly runs schools. “The school management is the one that can inform union members if they feel there is a need,” he said.
Goya told Mmegi that there are teachers who were at one point trained as counsellors, but were on the streets because government does not have money to hire them.
“They used to work for a consulting firm that used to do work for the education ministry before the end of its contract,” he said.
Goya added: “The issue on surveillance of schools should not be blown out of proportion. We will ensure that no one is intimidated. That I can assure you”. Goya did not disclose the method of surveillance that will be used in schools and neither did Kgathi, who feared jeopardising government efforts to fight drugs in schools.
Goya further said that they will be working hand in hand with the police and other law enforcement agencies.
“Government is really concerned about use of drugs in schools, which warrants serious action. We are losing our dignity as a country because of drugs among students. We will leave no stone unturned,” he said.