...aggrieved teachers reject govt’s new proposal

Trouble brewing school term beckons

MATHATISI SEBUSI

Maseru – Teachers have rejected the government’s new proposal mapping out the way forward in dealing with their long-term grievances which saw educators threatening to embark on a countrywide strike at the end of last term. The three teachers’ unions - LAT, LTTU and LESPA – this week said they are done playing hide and seek with the Ministry of Education which keeps hiding behind delaying tactics instead of addressing teachers’ long-standing grievances.

This comes after the Ministry of Education had yet again drafted another agreement promising to address teachers’ grievances as soon as possible. Unions said unlike the previous agreement that stipulated the time frames the grievances will be addressed and how, the new agreement does not say when and how the grievances would be addressed. Ntsibolane Letsatsi, President of Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) revealed that the leadership of the teachers’ had agreed not to be part of the new agreement which they say has nothing tangible to address their concerns.

Letsatsi said they have lost faith in the Ministry of Education since it failed to stand by its word on a signed agreement they had in October last year, which stipulated that all their grievances would have been met by the end of 2018. “Instead of them making things right to make up for the agreement they failed to fulfil, they came up with a report promising they would be attending to our matter as soon as possible without stating the exact time they will do so or how they will go about addressing them.

“The government is crying broke, this we can understand, but not all our complaints need money to be solved. We also complained about the threats some of the teachers’ union leaders were receiving but Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki, who we approached for guidance and to act as a mediator between the teachers and the ministry did not even say a word on the matter. This showed us that they are not prepared to address our issues with or without money.

“Because of this, we have decided to go back to the teachers and hold meetings to come up with a way forward as we have reached a dead end with the ministry and the government,” Ntsibolane said. According to him, the teachers from the central region will have the meeting on January 7 while those from North and South will have their meetings on January 8 and 9 respectively.

According to the previous agreement between the teachers and the Ministry of Education, the expectation was that, among others, a review of teachers’ career and salary structure which would be led by the Public Service would be implemented in the next financial year. According to Tšepo Lethobane of LTTU, the previous agreement recommended that representation during the review of the career and salary structure would be as inclusive as possible.

In addition, LESPA will be formally invited as an association to the career and salary structure meetings which were supposed to start on 24 September 2018 and be completed this month, but to their surprise and disappointment, the ministry has changed. Instead, the education ministry came to the conclusion that the ministries of finance, education and public service, in line with the Public Sector Modernisation Project, would be the only ones to look into the career structure review. “The recent agreement is nothing compared to the first one that was made but not fulfilled. This one is a clear delaying tactic to persuade us to go back to work so that the financial year starts without our grievances being attended.

“This recent agreement does not say anything about the last agreements that were made but just summarises that the grievances will be attended to. When and how, nobody knows,” Lethobane said. Teachers grievances include, among others, the threats union leaders are receiving, amendment of the Education Act, reverting performance contract, payment of outstanding salaries and allowances, salary errors on their performance-based contracts dating back to 2009 and salaries that are corresponding with their academic and professional qualifications as well as weeding out of ghost workers from the payroll and evaluation of career structure.

They also demand training towards the new curriculum, availability of resources and infrastructure facilities. According to the new agreement reportedly reached after a joint meeting held between 18 and 21 December, the Ministry of Education will liaise with the Attorney General to expedite the issuance of a certificate so that the bill should be presented before a special cabinet by January 2019 in preparation for its tabling before parliament.

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