Education and Skills Development Minister, Pelonomi Venson – Moitoi could be politically skating on thin ice.
Teacher unions on Monday vowed to end Venson- Moitoi’s political career over the examinations crisis which they said she was down playing.
They also fault her for bringing the teaching profession into disrepute, undermining the profession and her failure to convince the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) to agree to improved remuneration for invigilation while the government handsomely pays non-teaching invigilators way beyond what they are asking for.
Teachers’ unions are to petition the minister Thursday this week over the state of affairs at her ministry, asking her to swiftly act on matters of education and, in particular, their demands.
The teachers asked for P150 per invigilation but BEC would not budge. Unions have claimed that temporary invigilators engaged by the BEC are entitled to P360 per day, which covers invigilation, meals, transport and accommodation.
Added to this, BEC officials are booked into lodges and hotels on rented cars as they grapple with the examinations crisis while teachers themselves have never been accorded such niceties because, traditionally, teachers have to labour under unattractive conditions for the sake of children.
The teachers’ unions are not amused that Venson-Moitoi portrays them as irresponsible over their demands.
They also accuse the minister of using government media to distort a High Court judgment in their favour while they are denied the right to reply.
“We will be de-campaigning Minister Venson-Moitoi like the Manual Workers Union did with some politicians,” said Ibo Kenosi, Secretary General of the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU).
During the press conference called by (BOSETU) teachers for the examinations to be nullified. The unions painted, before the media, a grim picture of how the environment within which examinations were conducted was not conducive countrywide.
For instance, BOSETU claimed, at Maun Senior Secondary, a villager and a messenger invigilated the Home Economics exam.
In Gaborone, a student at Gaborone Secondary School got burnt during Home Economics Planning session because the invigilator was inexperienced and could not provide professional advice.
In Gantsi a History student wrote an afternoon exam paper in the morning. BOSETU said all 28 senior secondary schools in the country have not submitted marks for course work assessment. The teachers’ union said it is not its intention to punish students as they are merely seeking better remuneration.
“The situation is volatile. The situation on the ground is serious. Education officers have abandoned their work to run BEC activities. Parents and teachers are denied services because of the unavailability of officers. We are appealing to the nation to rally behind us,” said Mogomotsi Motshegwa, publicity secretary of BOSETU.
Further, the unions have threatened to report the BEC to Cambridge University for conducting examinations in a chaotic environment.
“We have to adhere to international standards. Teachers prepared students for examinations. We cannot allow spoilers at the eleventh hour. The credibility of the examinations is wanting. The ministry is unable to resolve the examinations invigilation issue. The ministry is handicapped primarily because, at the start of things, they thought they could do without teachers. What is happening is that they now need teachers desperately,” said BOSETU, President Shandukani Hlabano.
At hand in the stalemate between teachers and BEC are the four issues of setting of external examinations, invigilation, moderation and course work assessment. The teachers say the BEC has abandoned them at the negotiation table but say they are still waiting.
“We are not unreasonable. We did not abandon talks, BEC did,” said Tobokani Rari, BOSETU vice secretary general.
The teachers took a swipe at the leadership across the political spectrum to maintain a deafening silence when the future of children is at stake.
The one political leader who escaped the might of teachers was the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando who attended the press conference.