Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Strike 1 for the “Jobs President”

Beset by nepotism, bribery, exploitation and job insecurity ÔÇô a group of unemployed and temporary teachers have resolved to revolt against what some sectors of the society classify as ‘broken promises’ by the government to create jobs.

The protest marked the first amongst those that are expected to be made against the new administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi should it fail to create the much needed jobs.

A six days High way protest by the graduate teachers which started in Mahalapye and ended in the capital Gaborone this past Friday is noteworthy for a wide range of grievances.

Top of the list is the failure by the government to absorb thousands of graduate teachers into public schools. The group also accuse the government of failure to ensure that some of them are hired by private schools.

“In spite of the existent of the localisation policy, your ministry is clearly not committed to localisation especially with private teaching institutions. There are still a huge numbers of foreign teachers providing services which Batswana teachers are properly versed with”, reads part of the petition that the group handed to Basic Education Minister Bagalatia Arone at the ministry headquarters on Friday morning.

Triggered by many years of staying at home without jobs, the protestors walked over 200 kilometres between Mahalapye and Gaborone to raise awareness on the unemployment of teacher graduates and issues arising from it.

The group mostly females, were led by Kesaobaka Ditsheke whom they described as a ‘visionary’ and made ‘stops’ in places such as Dibete, Phalaroad, Artesia and Mochudi where they addressed Kgotla meetings.

Ditsheke says despite the statistics provided by the Teacher Services Management (TSM) which shows that graduates from as far back as 2008 remain unemployed, most people have been in the dark.

In an attempt to curb this high rate of unemployment amongst graduate teachers, the government is said to have introduced a ‘contractual employment’. At the same time, a recent communiqu├® from the Ministry of Basic Education has divulged plans by the government to enrol atleast 5000 graduates’ teachers under the controversial internship program. The communiqu├®, signed by Oemetse Nkoane on behalf of the Permanent Secretary called on regional directors to submit consolidation of needs per schools from their respective regions.

On Friday, Ditsheke and his group denounced the latest government move as they said the contractual engagement and internship programmes have proved to be more futile than productive.

“There is no recruitment procedure and this breeds corruption and nepotism equally. There are candidates who are continually given offers on temporary basis without a break whilst others are not considered for any”, says Ditsheke.

Amongst other things the group told Arone and his junior Thato Kwerepe that the ‘contractual hiring’ has resulted in nepotism, unpaid labour and sexual harassment for female graduates.

For female teacher graduates, the group says the matter is even worse as they are not allowed to go for maternity leave.

BROKEN PROMISE

In 2014, during the build up to the general elections, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), through its then leader Ian Khama made numerous promises amongst them that of creating jobs.

Through a letter entitled “Have your received my letter?” Khama informed Batswana that his most urgent promise was to tackle unemployment.

Two years later, after the letter, a youthful group of jobseekers were whipped by the police after they had gathered outside Parliament petitioning the government to create jobs. This marked the admission by the government of its failure to create jobs not just for graduate teachers but also for other essential sectors such as health.

The Friday petition that was handed by teacher graduates has as once again put on spotlight the 2014 (broken) promise made by Khama.

“Any economy can be subject to predicament of unemployment, however it becomes unacceptable when crisis matures to graduate unemployment”, says Ditsheke who has been unemployed since 2015.

Meanwhile when accepting the petition from the protestors, Arone promised to “get back to them” within a stipulated time. He said he could not share anything concrete with the group as yet, as he had to wait for President Masisi to make a pronouncement relating to job creation in the coming week. He however said he would make time to meet up with the group to share in detail on how the government to solve the problem of teacher graduates unemployment.

The group gave the government up to 20 working days to have responded to their demands.

What they demand

  • Govt must close two colleges and covert them into 2 secondary schools.
  • Reshuffle of officers in the ministry to curb corruption.
  • Minor subjects be recognised as basis for employment.
  • Investigate sexual misconduct, bribery, recruitment process across all regions.
  • Teacher intern programme be discarded
  • Temporary employment be used for emergency relief not as a way to cover vacant post for years.
  • Teacher ÔÇô student ration be of international standard, that a class have at most 25 students.

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