Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Trade unions are rendering themselves irrelevant

The two biggest stories of the last two weeks have been a decision by Government to suspend sports in government schools. And also, the global crisis as a result of coronavirus.

Trade Unions, as is their right have waded in.With regards to suspension of sports, trade unions are against that, saying sports can only be done after hours.The reason is simple; they want overtime for their members. More surprising however is a call for closure of schools.There is no science-based evidence to suggest why schools could be closed when there is not a single confirmed case of coronavirus in Botswana.Conclusions from the behavior of trade unions, especially Bosetu is that they are not willing or at the minimum do not have interest to be regarded as a partner when it comes to education.Trade unions leadership in Botswana is reckless and, in many instances, works against long term interests of ordinary members.

Of course this rash behavior on issues of national importance is not unique to Bosetu. But Bosetu has of late, been uniquely focused and foremost in its refusal to play ball on ongoing national efforts to get education off the ground.If education sector trade unions do not regard the protection of learners and learner interests as part of their fundamental objectives then it makes no surprise that this country’s education is in such deep trouble.Trade unions are forever on a war footing against imaginary enemies.For them it looks like no amount of tragedy will suffice bring the nation together.For them it is their way or the highway.They have become demigods. Anybody who disagrees with them is lynched.

Admittedly, salaries and wages for teachers could be improved. But there are other factors affecting teachers, which strangely elude Bosetu attention.These factors include work place conditions, like the general state of classrooms. They also include lack of enough classroom space for learners.These issues directly affect teachers too.The question is just how far will these trade unions continue to be a single pony concerns, disregarding everything in their calls for salary hikes.Education in Botswana has degenerated because fundamentals are wrong as are priorities.The moment cool heads prevail, is the moment a path to correcting everything would be found.Most astonishing to date has been a suggestion that schools should close because of coronavirus.To say that would be an overreaction, sounds like an understatement.

Scaremongering should be discouraged regardless of who is making it.It is such statements that create irrational behavior like panic buying and also stigma.Bosetu seems to be working on assumptions equivalent to that of science fiction.At a time when the World Health Organisation is preaching sticking to facts and avoiding fear, Bosetu leadership opts to behave like quack doctors.To be clear not a single case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Botswana, thus far.Closing schools is not child’s play. For an education trade union not to understand this, and try to make light of its ramifications is ridiculous.It is akin to suggesting that schools be closed indefinitely. Schools cannot be closed indefinitely.

If they are closed now, what happens when eventually coronavirus arrives, causes chaos and looking at the practicalities, schools then have to close.Instead of complaining that they were left out of some committee, Bosetu and other teacher trade unions could be forming their own committee to coordinate teachers concerns on coronavirus.Government, which Bosetu uses like a bogeyman cannot on its own fight coronavirus. If we are to succeed as a nation, there has to be multi-sectoral approach to coordination.South Africa has just announced the closure of its schools. Japan and South Korea were among the first to do so, followed by Italy. Such decisions were not taken lightly, but when the situation on the ground compelled it.To climb a tree, one has to start from the bottom.In times like these, hard truths are needed.Bosetu says with confidence that sports in government schools cannot happen within the framework of normal teaching.

This is a way of saying government should continue paying overtime, regardless of affordability, changed priorities or worsening economic situation.Here in Botswana there are schools, especially non-government schools that teach sports more effectively and more inclusively within the eight-hour day that Bosetu so religiously worships.Of course, in its attitude towards availability of resources, Bosetu is not alone.It takes some cue from some politicians who are behaving like Botswana still has no financial problems.These are people who are nostalgic and seemingly wedded to the past.

Botswana has serious financial problems, and from the look of things it will only get worse.There are many more unemployed people that the Bosetu membership.These people need to be taken care of especially in the timers of an impending crisis and emergency such as what we are seeing unfold before our eyes.The constant efforts by Bosetu to leadership to create a false impression that Government has infinite bag loads of money are unfortunate.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

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