Teachers last week poured scorn on President Ian Khama’s call for Batswana to stand united and sacrifice their all for the sake of the country.
Speaking at a press briefing organised by Botswana Sectors of Education Teachers Union (BOSETU) last week, the teachers called Khama a hypocrite, saying he expects other less privileged Batswana to sacrifice their dues and earn slave wages when he travels in luxury and sleeps in five star hotels.
“As teachers, we have been volunteering our services to this nation for too long. We toiled to breed political and business leaders of this country, only to be despised and castigated by government. Enough is enough,” said teachers at the meet.
The teachers were responding to President Khama’s statements that public servants who did not go on strike were “patriotic, disciplined and unselfish”.
In response to public servants’ demand for better working conditions and improved salaries, Khama urged Batswana to elevate the long-term national interest ahead of unsustainable narrow and short term desires.
“For us to succeed as a nation, we all have to be prepared to go the extra mile and do more than what we are paid to do. The attitude of teachers who refused to invigilate examinations because such work does not fall within their job description was unfortunate. Doing less while negotiating to be paid more is not acceptable. For this nation to grow and prosper, we must be driven by a desire to serve national interests before individual interests,” said Khama.
But teachers last week dismissed Khama’s pleas as self serving and unwarranted.
The teachers’ onslaught on Khama comes at a time when relations between teachers and government are at an all time low. Teachers are demanding payment for the extra hours they put in when they supervise sports and other extra mural activities. They recently resolved to work normal working hours like other public servants, which put students at a disadvantage as their sporting activities, projects and remedial lessons went unsupervised. Teachers insist that they have been sacrificing for the nation for far too long, and its time government threw something their way.
“For a long time, we have been volunteering our services with no thought of personal gain. We were not offered decent accommodation, or even transport, when we risked our lives travelling with students in open trucks. We put in extra hours every day to nurture talent and produce educated leaders of tomorrow. Meanwhile others travelled first class and slept in luxurious hotels. Even other public servants are at least paid overtime and provided with decent transport and accommodation while on national duty. This is where we put our foot down. Enough is enough,” they said.
Like a true capitalist, they said, Khama’s call for patriotism is self serving as it only seeks to protect his interests. The teachers said they would rather be called undisciplined than forsake their pursuit for decent pay and better working conditions.
The opposition has also rapped Khama on the knuckles for calling striking public servants unpatriotic.
Botswana Congress Party President Dumelang Saleshando has publicly said Khama’s statements are divisive and disrespectful to the laws of Botswana as the strike was sanctioned by the law.
Leader of the Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, has also warned against such statements, saying striking employees withdrew their labour just as much as government exercised her right to withhold salaries.
“All Batswana are patriotic citizens, none more than the other, none lesser than the other,” said Ntuane.