The Country’s two main teachers Unions, namely the Botswana Secondary Education Teachers Unions (BOSETU) and the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) have agreed only to differ on the mode of attaining the best working conditions for their members from the Botswana Examinations Council.
BOSETU has ordered all their members to temporarily suspend their services to the BEC, subject to the outcome of ongoing discussions between them and the Council, in respect of the relevant issues.
This emerges after a meeting at the end of the week at which BOSETU and BEC agreed that BOSETU should submit an application for recognition to the council, and that BOSETU hand the application by the 18th of September this month.
Reference is made to previous efforts by both BOSETU and BTU to persuade their employers to take cognizance of the needs and grievances of teachers, whereupon they were always given the excuse that the Ministry of Education was best suited to address their concerns, and not necessarily the particular department which engaged them.
Instances are cited in the past when the two unions, while there were still Associations, would resolve to protest sometimes by boycotting classes and other related duties for which they were not paid for, only for the BTU to renege at the eleventh hour.
Basing on the presentations of the BTU Executive at a Press Conference meant to clarify a number of issues, it has become apparent that this scenario is being replayed.
Secretary General of the BTU, Keorapetse Kgasa, said, “We would like to warn our members to refrain from employing any drastic tactics in dealing with this issue.”
“As for us, we have not been mandated to boycott BEC, in fact, we appreciate the minor changes that the Council has effected, and therefore plan to maintain a cordial relationship with BEC,” Kgasa pointed out.
Kgasa further highlighted that the last time they had a meeting that dealt with issues of teachers’ welfare was last year in October. He added, “The following issues were raised; taxation of marking fees, Subsistence and Travel allowance, marking fees, and payment thereof.”
To underline the cordial relationship that exists between BTU and BEC, Pule Ramaabya, patting Kgasa on the back, he stated, “To ensure our cordial relationship is taken care of, our Secretary General sits in the BEC board. And we have no intention to jeopardize this relationship”
The Secretary General of BOSETU, Modukanele, explaining their relationship with BTU, said, “These are old issues but the reason we are not winning is that there seems to be a tendency on the part of some, to win the lime light at the expense of the welfare of teachers and the future of children.”
Some of the issues on which the two teacher organizations held divergent views included a case in which there were concerns that it was seen to be dangerous for school kids to be transported in open trucks and, more recently, the double shift issue.
“In all cases, the BTU could not find cause to protest such that they out rightly opposed us”.
Against this background, the BOSETU spokesman indicated that they have resolved to take every issue on its merits not in terms of external support per se.
At their recent meeting with BEC, the two parties agreed that BOSETU should submit current issues of concern about external examinations to form part of the agenda for their next meeting.
The meting, which is scheduled to take place on the 15th September 2008, will discuss remuneration for invigilation external examinations, allowances and marketing rates.
Included in the agenda is also the issue of security of markers and scripts.
Apparently, for a long time, teachers have always been assigned to various functions under different Government Departments unrelated to their terms and condition of employment for no extra payment.
Some of them are supervising the conduct of elections under the Independent Electoral Commission, Statistics through the Central Station Officer and invigilation and marking of Examinations under the department of Examination Testing and Research, after the introduction of the process of the unionization of the public service. Considering that the Examinations body was granted autonomy, the teachers began to be assertive and demanded their treatment.
Responding to questions from The Sunday Standard, Justin Hunyepa, BOSETU Executive Secretary, pointed out that it was on the basis of the Ghanzi resolutions that they put it to BEC, and reminded their membership that not anymore will teachers offer free service to other departments outside their area of operation.
As a result, it was agreed by the two parties that moderation and invigilation of examinations of practical subjects like D&T and HE, which have already started, should continue, until clear positions are pronounced after another envisaged meeting with BEC on 15th September 2008.
BOSETU’s arguments in their exchanges with BEC centre on the fact “that Parliament in its wisdom created an autonomous body by the name of BEC and gave it the responsibility of managing and conducting the affairs of the external examinations in Botswana, including Invigilation and marking of examinations.”
For this reason, according to Hunyepa, given that BEC is a statutory body which enjoys separate juristic existence as a juristic person with the capacity to sue and be sued. It, therefore, follows that no organization can expect to be served by employees of other departments on whom it has no financial commitment.