Wednesday, April 21, 2021

After this, what’s next?

On Monday, the Minister of Education announced that using the powers vested on her by the Education Act, she was closing all government schools.

With immediate effect, she added.

This is after a terrible collapse of law and order, which was spreading really fast across the whole country.

We have no problem with the minister’s decision to close the schools.
Our only gripe is why she did not do it earlier.

As early as two weeks ago it had become apparent that Government was losing the propaganda battle it was locked in with the trade unions.

Right from the beginning, trade unions had sought to cast government operations across the country as having been paralysed by the strike action.

On the other hand, Government through its news outlets, was bent on depicting a picture that the strike had had a very minimal impact, if at all, on its operations.

It was clear that the thinking, at least within Government circles, and this is what we also believed was that the strike would be over in ten days.
That, however, was not to be.

Instead, the unions made it known that the strike was going to run for as long as it took Government to give the 16 percent salary increase.
All the above is now history.

What matters to many Batswana now is, with schools closed and violence so clearly on the rise in the streets of Botswana, just where are we headed?
That is a question that has to be answered.

The answer to that question, we want to say again, as we have done in the last four weeks, rests in how sincerely Government and the trade unions engage each other.

It is clear from the rhetoric coming from either side that attitudes have not only hardened, but also that egos have been allowed to clear the bigger pictures.

With so much at stake, each side is going for broke, too eager to outdo the other and possibly emerge victorious.

But will that move this country forward?
Our opinion is a clear “No.”

We think there is still room for dialogue.

Our insistence on dialogue is a result of a deep faith that no matter how deep the differences, there is always an opportunity of finding a settlement if all parties commit themselves to a “jaw-jaw” rather than a “war-war.”

Government position that there is no money cannot be dismissed out of hand.

It is also very difficult to say that workers’ demands are unreasonable when one gets to remember that these are employees who have gone for the last three years without salary adjustments in the face of increased taxes, a growing array of levies and general inflation.

But to steadfastly refuse to engage each other, as is currently the case can only be a silly way of dragging this country down the drain.

We are worried that if the standoff is not resolved, the situation will soon degenerate to an extent such that we would even forget the issues that have brought us into this kind of mess.
Which is why we are asking the question: after the closure of public schools, what will happen next?

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