Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU) has instructed their members to quit and withdraw immediately from sport activities.
The BOSETU directive brings to an end a protracted battle between the teachers unions and government over allowances given to teachers involved in sports at school level.
BOSETU’s decision comes after the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) informed teachers they will only be entitled to nominal allowance for helping in sports related activities.
This was communicated to all Regional Operations Directors of the Ministry in a savingram dated 3rd June 2019. The savingram was written and signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education (PS MOBE) Bridget John.
In the said savingram, John informed the MOBE Regional Operations Directors that ‘teachers who will take active part in sports shall be entitled to a nominal participation allowance determined and adopted last year”, and that, “the participation allowance shall be paid by BISA.”
John went on to inform them that whilst the ministry is of the view that ‘the cost of running sports is increasingly becoming unsustainable, the ministry is committing to continue to make sports an integral part of education.’
Responding to the savingram, BOSETU said it is ‘convinced this arrangement is exploitative and borders on unlawfulness.’
The union said it finds the contents of the savingram not only ‘unacceptable and undermining to the trade union and educators, but also demeaning to both and ultra vires to the provisions of the Employment Act (sections 94 and 95).’
“We further note that the ministry is using this allowance to defeat the letter, spirit and intent of this law especially regarding the regulation of overtime” charged BOSETU.
the union pointed out that as representative body of teachers, it is their duty as a teachers’ trade union ‘to negotiate, or at the barest minimum to be consulted on’ such matters.
“BOSETU regret to admit that in this case none of the aforementioned took place. This on its own is a further flagrant and glaring violation of the provisions of other legal statutes viz; Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations Act, Trade Dispute Act and the Public Service Act” observed the union.
Called to comment on the union’s stand, BOSETU secretary general Tobokani Rari said ‘the Ministry does not take teachers with any seriousness.’
“In fact, the Ministry undermines teachers and treats them with an out most disdain. Teachers labour so much to nurture talent and holistically mould the care only for the Ministry to compensate their hours and rest periods with an allowance of only P500.00. This degrading on the status of these teachers and it shows the casual way in which sports is treated in this country,” Rari said.
The BOSETU Secretary General said MOBE does not take seriously the contribution of teachers in sport development because is not central to the mandate of the Ministry hence their casual and lackadaisical approach to issues of sports.
“May be its high time sporting activities be removed from armpit of the Ministry of Basic Education to that Youth Sports & Culture which is the rightful Ministry bestowed with that responsibility,” opined Rari.
On the duration of the boycott, Rari said BOSETU will encourage and mobilize union members to withdraw from sporting activities until the union gets involved in negotiating remuneration rates and the working conditions when teachers are being engaged in sporting activities or at such time that the law on overtime is applied to teachers who carry out sporting activities.
On why the government is reluctant to pay teachers overtime allowances like other civil servants Rari said “it’s quite surprising why this discriminatory practice when it comes to teachers especially those carrying sporting activities. The P500.00 allowance is meant avoid paying them overtime as per the Employment Act but rather resorting an exploitative meager nominal allowance.
The standoff between teachers and government over overtime allowances has paralised the sporting activities in schools and teachers’ participation in sports is limited by overtime allowance issues.
As far as sport development in Botswana goes, teachers have been at the forefront of athlete development from the grassroots.
Track stars such as Amantle Montsho, Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos, Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda and Galefhele Moroko, just to mention but a few came through the hands of teachers, both at Primary and Secondary schools.
In a country where sporting codes rely on teachers for grassroots development of athletes, the decision will have a massive effect on the country’s sporting future.
Should teachers stop administering sports in schools, many codes will run the risk of losing their teacher coaches and the results may be catastrophic.
In January the BAA, vice president technical, Kenneth Kikwe observed that “if teachers stop participating in school sports activities, the effect will be massive to the country’s sports development. Teachers have and continue to play a critical role in the development of athletes and any decision which makes them stop involvement in sports will be catastrophic,”
“The truth is teachers have been at the forefront of our athlete development processes. For us as the BAA to have the athletes we have, they first pass through Botswana Primary Schools Sports Associations (BOPSSA) and the Botswana Integrated Sports Associations (BISA), and these associations are under teachers,” he said.
The BAA VP Technical added that as sporting codes or associations, they do not have the capacity to carry out their own talent identification and development and therefore rely on teachers for such.
“It is teachers who identify our talent and they develop it. All we do as sporting codes is to provide the technical knowhow,” Kikwe said.