Historically abusive PS implementing a plan that seeks to make abuse history

17 Sep 2018

How, people ask, can the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, continue to serve in cabinet after publicly expressing support for a patently anti-Botswana report? A similar question is not being asked about another senior government official: how can the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education, Dr. Collie Monkge, implement the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) which requires him to oversee a “harmonised industrial relations environment.”

The overly ambitious plan, which has only two years left in its implementation phase, recognises that there are sour relations between teacher trade unions and the ministry. To that end and in service of harmonised industrial relations environment, the plan recommends “collaborative engagement between employer and employees in decision making processes for quality service delivery.” However, the derogatory and misogynistic language that Monkge used when he met education managers and administrators in Palapye recently shows that such collaborative engagement exists in name only.  “Used” and not “allegedly used” because as he delivered insult and after insult during his tirade, a cellphone was recording him. The ETSSP projects that in the 2017-18 period and based on 2014 figures, there will be a 75 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files. The opposite appears to have happened.

Following Monkge’s verbal rampage in Palapye, the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, reconvened another meeting with the victims to apologise to them in person as well as to the public. Apparently, Monkge had been addressing the same class of officers in other parts of the country and the treatment that they got was no different from the one he gave to the ones in Palapye. The latter have raised questions of why only one group of senior officers is getting an apology on Monkge’s behalf from the highest office in the land. Says one in Francistown: “The PSP is not apologising for what Monkge said because he has been insulting teachers for decades. He is apologising for the fact that Monkge was caught on tape being his usual self. Make no mistake, had there been no audio tape, there would have no trip to Palapye and no apology. If the PSP genuinely wants to apologise for Monkge’s abuse of teachers, he should go on a national tour.”

Online, two people express similar sentiment by asking why Morupisi has not made a similar trip to Mahalapye and the Southern Region where Monkge also allegedly insulted administrators during similar meetings. Social media has also seen many more teachers who have suffered Monkge’s verbal abuse for decades going public with deeply disturbing testimonies.

The ETSSP also makes a recommendation that Monkge will be predisposed to oppose – student councils that “strengthen student-based council structure and processes for student’s participation on their own development and well-being.” Described by some as a “disciplinarian”, Monkge is said to have been frightfully keen on the use of the cane as both teacher and later principal. The plan recommends an approach to problem-solving (consultation with students) that he is wholly unaccustomed to.

Despite very dark personality traits that disqualify him from holding certain positions, Monkge somehow ended up at the Vision 2016, the 20-year national road map conceived under President Sir Ketumile Masire in 1996, as its coordinator. NDP 9 says the following: “A fifth principle adopted in Vision 2016 is that of “Botho”, which refers to one of the tenets of the Setswana culture, usually associated with being well-mannered, courteous, and highly disciplined in one’s endeavours to achieve full potential, while encouraging social justice for all.” The irony cannot be lost on anyone.

Another irony is that Monkge’s downfall may be brought not about what happened recently but more than five years ago. When Monkge suddenly resigned from Vision 2016, our sister paper, The Telegraph, reported that he had “a difficult relationship with his political principal, the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi.” Masisi would later become vice president and on April 1 this year, president. As a former teacher himself, Masisi would be very well acquainted with Monkge’s decades-long track record in the civil service.

Interestingly, Monkge’s treatment of educators is part of an entrenched pattern of abuse in government schools. With as much negative publicity as he has received, Monkge is no longer a problem but the problem of abusive administrators and teachers remains in government schools. The government Facebook wall illustrated its article about Morupisi’s apology meeting with pictures of various attendees whom Monkge had previously insulted. However, there were comments that revealed that some of the people in the room were themselves equally abusive. In a raft of negative comments, some referring to Monkge and junior administrators in attendance, the following were noted: “Rre yo used to beat us ijooo ampore ke tshaba sekolo”, “Gatwe o hula clapa e maswe o ska bona ana le setshwano sa ga Mugabe jaana, ko St Jo gatwe ne bamo itse”, “Ke mo gakologelwa a gana go sutela headteacher mongwe ko Bokamoso a tshwanetse go ya transfer”, “Evn ledumang senior back in 2001 ijoo.this man aekhona” and “Banna ke mo gakologelwa ko Bokamoso a e letsa thupa mme ra pasa mooo!!”

Like the more disagreeable police officers on night shift, some school principals have proclivity to arrogate to themselves powers of an entire SADC Summit. Years ago, one principal scandalously painted buildings of an entire government school that he was principal of with official colours of his church - the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. For decades now, some secondary school teachers have been known to sexually abuse female students as well as to physically and verbally abuse both male and female students. Part of this sociopathy has to do with the fact Botswana’s school system has not developed protocols for keeping bullies out of the classroom. With bright-lines not being bright enough, what is officially described as corporal punishment can at times actually be attempted murder. At a school in Molepolole, a male teacher actually crippled a female student during what was supposed to be corporal punishment. Unless the Teaching Council that the ETSSP anticipates comes into being, an eight-year old who is currently brutalizing his playmates could become a teacher in the future and as an overgrown bully, brutalise students in the same way.