Teachers' Vaccination Hopes Fade

Educators: President Masisi addressing teachers at Nanogang JSS at the beginning of the year. PIC THALEFANG CHARLES
Educators: President Masisi addressing teachers at Nanogang JSS at the beginning of the year. PIC THALEFANG CHARLES

Frustration is mounting as teachers await the roll-out of their vaccination programme before the scheduled reopening of schools on August 17, 2021. The teaching profession has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with teachers’ unions saying the death toll could swell if schools reopen before teachers get their jabs.

Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) have fought relentlessly with government for the closure of schools and subsequent vaccination of teachers due to the alarming COVID-19 infections and related deaths. Although the government finally bowed to pressure and closed schools a fortnight ago, there seems to be no vaccine in sight for teachers.

This is despite President Mokgweetsi Masisi making endless promises that teachers, who have been classified as frontline workers, would be prioritised for vaccination. With a little over two weeks before schools reopen amid a vaccine shortage, BOSETU president Winston Radikolo said teachers have grown frustrated by the endless promises without any delivery on the part of the government. Radikolo said authorities have been piling promises to vaccinate teachers but without any assurances.

He said it seems like the classification of teachers as frontline workers was just cosmetic talk as there is “nothing exclusive to teachers”. He said as things stand, teachers are treated like any other person awaiting their chance on the vaccination queue. “It is most likely that schools will re-open before teachers could get vaccinated.There are no assurances on the part of authorities despite promises that teachers would be considered first. Now they are saying it depends on the availability of the vaccine,” Radikolo said.

He added they will go ahead with their intention to sue government in order to get that which they want for their members. Earlier this month, the two teachers’ unions, BOSETU and BTU, embarked on a court action to interdict government from continuing to have lessons continue without ensuring the safety of the educators.

The unions also wanted an order directing the government to provide protective clothing to teachers as well as vaccinating teachers as a priority. The issue of the vaccine has become topical as Botswana continues to struggle to procure enough for the eligible population. “We are still on with the issue (court case). Our prayers were for the schools to close and teachers to be vaccinated and this is not wholly done.

We need teachers to be vaccinated before schools reopen,” he added. Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Basic Education Fidelis Molao were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was off.

Editor's Comment
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