The Botswana Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education are once again at each other’s throats over alleged irregularities over interviews for senior teacher positions in primary and secondary schools.
Teachers raised complaints after written interviews were conducted at Mater Spei College in Francistown last week. A subsequent ad-hoc meeting between BTU and TSM officials last Friday came to naught, and BTU instructed its attorneys to make an urgent application to the high court to freeze the interviews until the matter is resolved.
In an urgent communiqu├® to TSM dated 19 March 2008 BTU alleges that the interviews, which were held on February 23 at Mater Spei College, were marred by serious irregularities. BTU alleges that there were no proper invigilation structures during the time written interviews were conducted because only one invigilator was responsible for the 150 candidates. They also allege that the 150 interviewees shared 10 desks among them, which resulted in copying and discussions of answers.
“Rules were not observed as interviewees were allowed to use cell phones during the interview while the allocated time frame was not observed,” read the letter from BTU.
For his part, MoE’s Deputy Permanent Secretary Opelo Makhandlela laughed off BTU’s allegations as ramblings of bitter teachers who had failed to make the grade. He said that the fact that BTU took such a long time to voice their complaints, only doing so after the results of the written interviews were released, shows that their actions are invalid, bitter responses by teachers who failed to pass the written interview. He quashed BTU’s allegations that there were 150 candidates as indications that the union does not have its facts right. He explained that there were 486 candidates who sat for the exam, 286 of whom were guidance and counseling teachers while the other 206 were practical subject teachers.
Makhandlela also revealed that TSM had lined up six invigilators for the examination, of which only four managed to turn up. “But indications are that the four invigilators were more than adequate to monitor the 486 candidates,” he said.
He also poured water on allegations of cheating and overcrowding saying the interview was conducted at the college multi purpose hall, which has enough capacity and furniture to seat over a thousand people.
BTU also alleges that the same paper was written across the country at different times, thereby increasing chances of cheating. Serowe candidates wrote the paper at 0800hours, Palapye 1000 hours and Francistown 1130hours. This, they say, enabled teachers from Serowe and Palapye to notify those in Francistown of the questions that had been set for the interview.
The teachers union also alleges that the interview paper was leaked before the interview date. They also accuse TSM of failing to probe allegations that the interview paper was sold for P500 at Block 8, Gaborone, and briefing teachers on the outcome of their investigations.
“Different criteria were used to invite teachers for the interview. For example, the minimum requirement in the central region was six years experience while that of the north was two years experience. There was apparent prejudice towards more experienced teachers in the north,” read the BTU letter.
BTU has also revealed that they have uncovered an even bigger stink in the South Central Region, still involving the same interviewing process. BTU’s German Motswaledi told The Sunday Standard on Friday that after initiating their own investigations, they unraveled even worse incidents of cheating and corruption in the South Central region, covering Gaborone, Ramotswa, Mochudi and Molepolole. He also revealed that they held yet another meeting with TSM on Tuesday to inform them about the evidence that they had uncovered, but once again, the education officials laughed them off.
To that end, the BTU says their members are extremely dissatisfied with the way in which the written examination was conducted, and therefore query the outcome of the written interview and, by extension, the criteria used to call some teachers for the subsequent oral interview.
“It must be noted that legal action is the last resort, and we will always strive to hold consultations with the employer. But TSM has repeatedly brushed off our overtures and we have no option but to seek legal redress,” said Motswaledi.
He also revealed that their efforts to convince TSM to hold joint investigations to establish the authenticity of the allegations that were raised proved futile.
“We are presently busy in consultations with our attorneys, and we will file papers before the courts as early as Monday. Whether TSM has decided to continue with the oral interview is neither here nor there,” he said.
BTU, through their attorneys Kgalemang and Associates and Rantao Attorneys, is expected to submit an urgent application to the Francistown and Lobatse High courts seeking the courts to order investigations into allegations of cheating during the written interviews and also declare a moratorium on the ongoing oral interviews.
BTU‘s demands that the oral interviews be stayed is meant to enable them to interrogate their membership’s concerns with a view to conducting the written interview afresh and under proper circumstances.