The marathon battle between the Botswana Secondary Teachers Union (BOSETU) and the Botswana Examination Council (BEC) over remuneration seems far from over.
BOSETU is threatening that their member teachers will boycott the impeding national secondary examinations and engage the court of law for arbitration unless their demands are met.
Citing a slug which dates back to the 1980s and which looks set to prolong unless stern action is applied, BOSETU Wednesday called on the teachers to shun BEC and withdraw their contracts unless remunerated for the services, saying government has taken a long time to compensate and was dilly-dallying over the teachers plight.
Although they are officially remunerated for marking the examinations, teachers lament the remuneration is inadequate and the working environment, including accommodation, is far from the acceptable standards.
Currently, teachers render invigilation services for free and it is largely because of the unpaid service they agitate for remuneration.
“We are currently mobilizing the teachers and members of BOSETU to boycott the examinations and the response has been tremendous. Almost all of the schools we visit, member teachers consent will not invigilate and mark the examinations unless government decides to pay the service for invigilation,” said Mogomotsi Motshwegwa the publicity secretary at a press conference.
Motshegwa maintained that the government was unwarrantly abusing the teachers by not paying the teachers for invigilation, adding that the government was trampling on the rights of the teaching profession.
He said that invigilation and marking of the examinations are not the duties of the teachers, saying BEC was mandated to conduct the marking exercise and possibly the invigilation.
The Publicity Secretary said that simply because the teachers happen to be in the classrooms does not warrant that they invigilate, adding that, currently, the teachers had not responded to BEC’s invitation to invigilate and mark the examination.
Notes BOSETU executive secretary Justin Hunyepa, “The issue of remunerations over invigilation and marking of the examinations is not a new thing. It was agitated for in the 80s and gained prominence in 1986 when we boycotted the markings because of the conditions that prevailed at the marking centers.”
Hunyepa said that at the recent meeting in Maun, teachers lobbied and endorsed to boycott the examinations unless remunerated, arguing that for a long time government abused teachers, the worst being their subjection to invigilate without payment.
According to Motshegwa, should the government not give a sympathetic ear, an urgent application to the courts seeking arbitration was in the offing.
“Unless the government takes heed of our demands, BOSETU intends to engage the court of law for arbitration.”
Confronted with the BOSETU claims, the teachers were not prepared to render anymore invigilation and the marking of the examinations, BEC spokeperson, Spencer Moreri, countered.
“Such claims are untrue. Currently, we are receiving positive response from the teachers willing to participate in the examinations. Some are even applying to take part without our invitation,” said Moreri who added that BEC was unfazed about the court application motivated by BOSETU.
As a move to highlight their dissatisfaction and anger against the government, Motshegwa said the rate at which the teachers were leaving the profession was worrisome.
He lamented the poor working environment was attributable to the exodus.
“The experienced and skilled teachers are leaving the profession to join other government departments. This term, 6 teachers left the profession in Mochudi, 8 at Gaborone Secondary School and a considerable number at Francistown Secondary School all because of low salaries,” declared Motshegwa, adding that if not severely cautioned government will continue to abuse the teachers.
He noted the boycott was the only remedy to bring the government to its senses.