Friday, September 18, 2020

“Teachers still not given the respect they deserve”

It is my singular honour and privilege to deliver a speech to celebrate the achievements of gallant sons and daughters of this land. We are humbled by your selfless contribution in the education of our future generation.

The illustrious themes that are crafted from year to year to celebrate teachers’ day, gives one the impression that teachers are valued in Botswana. This year’s theme reads, TEACHER: THE KEY DRIVER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE HUMAN RESOURCE’ You will agree with me that this theme does not only put the teacher on a higher social pedestal but also presents the teacher as the cornerstone of human resource development. Dear brethrens, Teachers’ Day is a period of celebration and not a time to complain about things that are not going right. Congratulations gallant ladies and gentlemen. The fact that you are going to receive awards today is an indication that your contribution is noticeable hence worthy of being recognized.

It would however, be remiss of me if a fail to give a brief update on critical issues in education as we celebrate this year’s teachers’ day. In so doing I shall not dwell on the myriad and unresolved historical problems in the teaching fraternity. We are mindful of the reality that today we need to be in a celebratory mood hence after the update I will take you back to the merry making tempo that is supposed to characterize the events of the day.

The Public Service Bargaining Council

The Public service bargaining council has been established but it is also evident that the actual collective bargaining process will not start any time soon. This is primarily because establishing an organization is not different from building a house. Hence when you start building a house today you don’t move in with you furniture. We expect negotiations with the employer to go on outside the Council until such time that the Council is ready to execute its full mandate.

We have received enquiries from many teachers with regard to Early Exit Policy. It is important that we familiarize ourselves with the purpose and or intention of the policy. The policy states that it would be applicable “As and when Government finds it necessary to embark on a programme of staff reduction arising out of among other reasons;

a. Organizational changes or developments which directly result in staff reduction at a particular level, category, skills or occupation;

b. The cessation of a function resulting in a reduction, or total abolition of office for employees of a particular category, occupation or level;

The 2012/ 2013 budget speech alluded to the fact that all Ministries would be expected to reduce their wage bill by 5 percent. We are however, not aware of any intentions to reduce the teaching force but should the need arise to downsize the teaching fraternity, the employer will send the necessary warning signals. The policy offers an attractive package but we should not start applying because we are not yet the target.

The Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) investment portfolio holders inform us that the days of the double deep recession are over or so it seems. Currently, financial markets are stable and the Pension fund is declaring positive interest. It is however, important to caution that we should not hurry to take early retirement especially at the age of forty-five because at that age the fund would not have accumulated much to sustain your needs. We need to plan carefully before we decide to retire.

On the professional front, the play field is not yet level. The relationship between the Ministry of Education and Skills Development leadership and the Teacher Trade Unions is still characterized by a lot of mistrust. For our education system to be effective there is need for mutual trust and good faith at sector level. Currently, there is a lot of mistrust between ministry officials and the Teacher Unions. It would suffice to say that there is need to appreciate the fact that it takes two to tango. The ministry of Education cannot deliver quality education alone. There is need for buy in from other stakeholders especially Trade Unions. And this buy in can only be achieved if there is meaningful and effective dialogue between parties. There are still many challenges in our institutions across the education system.

School Heads and Management status- It is evident that the employer would like School Heads to be Senior Managers. We support that as long as it is consistent with the law. Senior Management starts at E2 and our position as a Trade Union is that School Heads should be paid at that level. A school Head has a lot more responsibility than some of the employees on E2 in the public service.

Many primary schools suffer gross neglect from local authorities. Most of our primary schools still lack basic forms of communication such as facsimiles and telephone services. If we do not get it right at primary school level which is the foundation and the base upon which higher education is nurtured, then we would forever produce average students who cannot invent new things. Lately, in our primary schools there is an acute shortage of stationery ranging from chalk to textbooks.
We are in receipt of complains from teachers with regard to new assessment syllabi dated 2012 across subjects. These assessment instruments have just been received in schools and they propose a new format to final examinations for the current final year students. Ordinarily, it is inconceivable to introduce a new assessment syllabus for final year students. We are still engaging the concerned authorities on the matter.

Tertiary Institutions- Progression at our tertiary institutions especially Vocational Training Centres (VTC) and colleges of education is wanting. We find it inappropriate for lecturers in tertiary institutions to be paid at C3 scale. It is possible to find a PhD holder in our tertiary institutions pegged C2 salary. We believe that people with such qualifications should enter the service at an enhanced salary scale as is the case with other cadres in the public service. Progression for lectures at VTCs has been frozen so to speak.

Hours of work and Leave for teachers- remains unresolved and these are critical issues that both the DPSM and the Teacher Trade Unions are grappling with. Similarly, the issue of leave visage- a- visage school vacation are matters that are on the table for negotiations.

Levels of operation remain a challenge in our institutions. I can confirm that while there is a lot of talk about the system being phased out of our education system, in reality nothing seems to be happening. As Teacher Trade Unions we believe that our education system would look much better without levels of operation.

Despite all these challenges we should always remember that a teacher is a giver of life. Even the holy scriptures recognize the importance of a teacher in society. A central piece in Hindu scripture reads,

“The Teacher is the Creator, the Teacher is the Preserver, the Teacher is the Destroyer, and the Teacher is the Ultimate Reality visible to our eyes. To that Teacher we offer our salutations”.
The future of this country or better still, the future of this world is in the hands of teachers.

Statesmen have celebrated teachers and in other instances celebrated the value of education:
One of Tony Blair’s most celebrated speeches was when he was talking about education. He had this to say:

“Ask me my three main priorities for government and I tell you, education, education, education.”
The physicist Albert Einstein said: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. Remember Einstein was a product of a teacher.

The former president of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had this to say at a Teachers’ Day (India) in 2003 “We should always respect our teachers. Teachers need encouragement and support from the community to feel that their devotion to students is appreciated’.

would like to conclude by saying that these you will shortly be given Presidential Awards. I hope in future these awards would be bestowed by the President of the Republic of Botswana His Excellency the Lt General Ian Khama Seretse Khama.

Congratulations to all of you. We are proud of you. You are the champions. Have a wonderful day. Enjoy your day.

*Hlabano is President of BOSETU. He was speaking at occasion to mark National Teachers Day

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