The standoff between the government and teachers over examinations invigilation has taken an ugly and scary twist.
Soldiers were dispatched ostensibly to avert possible examination disruptions by teachers and parents who do not want non-teaching invigilators during invigilation at Radikolo Junior Secondary School in Mochudi on Wednesday where students sat for Home Economics practical examination.
Apparently, the government has been gathering intelligence to the effect that parents and teachers nationally had told students to walkout of examination rooms at the sight of invigilators who do not teach at their schools.
Who the intelligence gatherers were remains a mystery.
This development has infuriated the Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union (BOSETU).
“I think the government is trying to intimidate students, teachers and parents by bringing soldiers to schools. This is abuse of state power and resources. Minister [Pelonomi] Venson-Moitoi often runs to the state media whenever we raise matters of education before she engages us. She insists on the right to reply. But BOSETU is denied the same right by the state media,” BOSETU executive secretary, Justin Hunyepa, told the Sunday Standard on Friday.
BOSETU on Friday wrote a letter to the director at the Department of Broadcasting Services crying foul over the issues above.
The Sunday Standard is in possession of a copy of the letter copied to BTV Head of News, the National Broadcasting Board, MISA Botswana and BOFEPUSU.
The school head, Morris Magama, confirmed the incident but would not divulge further details.
“I am not in a position to comment further as I have informed the regional director. She is aware of what happened at the school,” he said.
Bontle Mojaphoko, the Kgatleng Region education director, told the Sunday Standard that she was not aware of the incident.
“I don’t know anything,” she said.
Asked if the school head may have misled this newspaper when he said she (Mojaphoko) was aware of the incident, she repeated her “I don’t know anything” response.
Although she claims no knowledge of the incident, her boss, Education, Skills and Development Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, is very much alive to the development.
Venson-Moitoi told The Sunday Standard that she is awaiting a report why members of the disciplined forces were sent to the school.
The minister is grappling with the confusion that resulted from a court ruling in favour of teachers that it is not their duty to invigilate examinations.
“One school wrote to my ministry saying they do not want their children to be invigilated by those who do not teach at their school. I responded to the PTAs reminding them that invigilation can be done by anyone with the necessary qualifications under the Botswana Examinations Council Act. I have requested PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations) not to be involved in matters affecting the employer and the employee. Their role is to support teachers and students,” Venson-Moitoi told the Sunday Standard.
On accusations that she enjoys monopoly over the state media to denounce the unions who are denied the same platform to be heard, the minister quashed the claim saying she never used the government owned media to attack unions.
“Unions use the private media to attack me personally that I am worried less about what is going on in my ministry because my children attend private schools. I went to radio because this is a national issue of national interest,” she said.
Having said that, the minister assures the nation examinations will continue without major hiccups.
Mochudi Police station commander, Superintendent Onneetse Gagogosha, said he was not aware of the presence of soldiers at the school on that particular Wednesday as there were no incidents reported to the police by the school.
“I was in my office throughout the week but I have not heard anything about soldiers being called in at the school for whatever reasons,” said the police station commander.
This is how Major Fana Maswabi of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Protocol and Public Affairs explains the presence of soldiers in school premises during examinations: “The soldiers were on routine activities. In view of the fact that they were going to spend a couple of days in the locality, they went to the school to request the school to assist them by temporarily accommodating some perishables.”