Teacher unions have been surprisingly left out in the cold, with his Excellency President Ian Khama declining to meet with them at a recently held lunch with teachers.
The unions had been anticipating that meeting, in the hope that they could echo all the grievances to Khama. However, a last minute decision by Khama saw the unions not being invited to dine at the State House.
“Around 4pm on Thursday (last week) we were told not to attend the lunch as per Khama instruction,” said Ibo Kenosi, the Secretary General of Botswana Teachers Union.
Kenosi said they were only informed by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development but no reason was stated on why they were not invited to State House.
“This has not affected us much because we know where to take our grievances, we are happy at least that Khama interacted with teachers,” he said.
But Tobokani Rari, the Secretary General for the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) was not fazed by the snub.
“What Khama did is within his right as a president,” he said.
Rari, however, pointed out that the precedent set by Khama will not be sustainable. “We have at least 26 000 teachers, does it mean the president has the time to meet with all of them individually,” he said.
He added that teachers have a collective voice, which is their unions, and that it would have been nice had Khama met with unions.
“The teachers, when they have problems, come to us, and this approach by Khama is cumbersome in the long run,” he said.
The teacher unions have been at odds with their ministry over teachers’ grievances for a while without reaching a consensus. Hence the call by the President to have one on one talks with the teachers, hopefully ushering in a new era for the teachers.
Complaints have been raised over low salaries, high shortage of accommodation at primary schools; the issues of hours of work and classification of teachers as essential service employees are some of the issues that have so far remained unresolved. All ten regions were represented.
Attempts to reach the Deputy PS were futile.