Sunday, May 28, 2023

Cries of a temporary teacher

Upon finishing my Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in 2007 from the University of Botswana, I, or rather, we (‘we’ being every PGDE graduate that year, and the years before) all knew it was not going to be easy getting a job.
But still we were never prepared for the cruelty of life and of the ministry that we found ourselves automatically ‘working’ for.

2007, to be specific, was our graduating year, but to date we still find ourselves hopping from school and from village to town and vice versa doing temporary teaching jobs.

Apart from the fact that we get a monthly salary befitting a new graduate, there is nothing to write home about regarding being a temporary teacher referred to as a ‘temp’ in this article.

To begin with, the ministry can only give us 3 ÔÇô 4 months contracts i.e. one school term contract.

Most of the time, we will be sitting for teachers who are on maternity leave or study leave. Despite that the ministry would be aware that in some cases the teacher would be away for more than one school term, in case of a study leave, it would still insist on issuing a one school term contract.

When the school term ends, the contracts expire and in most cases the ‘temp’ should really work hard to ensure that he/she goes back to the same school. In most cases the officer responsible for us ‘temps’ at the ministry is likely to give the contract to someone else despite knowing that another temp has been teaching at that school. Battling to get these contracts also means that we have to compete with those students completing from colleges of Education (who are somehow always favoured first over us UB Graduates) and those from RSA Universities.

The 4 month contract brings us to the second problem of being a ‘temp’. There is no way that any bank, cash loan, furniture shop etc can assist us if we are working as temps. Their reason is simple and understandable, ‘how will we pay for installments when we are not fully employed?’ This means that we have to buy everything cash upfront everywhere. Making big purchases such as auto mobiles will remain a dream as it will take us at least 3 years to save up enough money to finally buy a vehicle.

Diverting away from the money related issues, being a ‘temp’ means that one has to hop from school to school whenever there is an opening. Staying in the south central region i.e. Gaborone stretching as far as Kweneng, one can work in Gaborone the first school term, then Sojwe during the winter term and finally the remote areas of the Kgatleng District in the 3rd term. Due to the simple reason that one has to survive one way or the other, we end up hopping from village to village just to put food on the table.

Usually if one raises a voice of concern about the remoteness of the village and its distance-from-civilisation, the responsible won’t hesitate to call the next person on the waiting list for the available job. The ministry is well aware that we are desperate therefore they just throw anything at us knowing fully well that should one not catch, someone else will.

Those unfortunate end up knocking at the Department of Primary Education, which in my opinion is simply killing or damaging the brains of the young ones because PGDE graduates are not trained to teach primary school students.

Hopping from school to school brings us to our next problem with being a temp. There is absolutely no way that a ‘temp’ will be able to connect and bond with his/her students in one school term, let alone knowing their names.

There is no flow or continuity in the academic front as the students are introduced to a new teacher every term. Students need to learn the teacher’s mannerisms and way of teaching before they can grasp anything. In the case of a temp, by the time the students feel they have bonded with the teacher, she/he is taken away from them. This, of course, is not a problem according to the MoE. Being a temp at a senior school is more strenuous since one is tasked with preparing students for tertiary education in a space of only two years. Despite knowing that miracles have long faded during the times of Christ, we, temps, are expected to perform miracles by producing ‘A’ students out of nothing.

It is a possible dream only if we were given more time to be with the students. Still within the school premises, temps are confused for teaching practice (TP’s) students. We, temps, find ourselves treated as TP’s. If there is any minor errands to run in the staff room to be made, trust a temp to do the job, involuntarily though. Any objection the temp will be quickly reminded of his/her contract.

One would think that the University of Botswana would press the ‘pause’ button on the PGDE programme but no! The university still continues to offer the programme despite the congestion of these graduates and the obvious competition for the limited spaces available for temps. Although we know it is a dead end, we can only hope the government can cater for us temps so we can access benefits such as those enjoyed by other government employees.

Being a temp means that one has to leave like a dog, i.e. literally getting every bone that is thrown his or her way.


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