Rapapa made false promises: school principals



MASERU – The Lesotho Schools’ Principal Association (LESPA) has expressed concerns over the unusually prolonged interim periods served by principals in various schools, with some exceeding 10 years, an issue highlighted for the first time through such observations. LESPA’s Public Relations Officer, ’Matšoanelo Lichaba, expressed these concerns in an interview this week.

She noted that while acting positions in other civil services typically last between three and six months —with appointees receiving allowances — principals have endured extended acting terms without such benefits. “It is said that those allowances will be paid in arrears, but such arrears were not originally planned in the budget. Now, our struggle extends beyond the prolonged acting periods; we also need the allowances issue resolved. Between June and July 2022, we were informed that teachers would receive their allowances. “Subsequently, it was communicated that the payments would begin last week because their inclusion in the system had been overlooked so by April 2023, they were expected to receive their payments.

“However, in April last year, approximately 417 teachers transitioned from acting roles to permanent and pensionable positions. Unfortunately, over 800 teachers who were left in acting positions were told that their allowances would accompany their salaries, yet they have not. To address this, the Minister of Education, the Deputy Prime Minister, and two other ministers formed a subcommittee but that committee convenes sporadically, leading to inconsistent progress on the issue,” she said.

Lichaba noted that on March 21, they conducted an Annual General Meeting (AGM) for principals, to which the Minister of Education and Training, Professor Ntoi Rapapa was invited. During the AGM, Rapapa promised that the recruitment of principals would commence in April after the ministry had secured the necessary budgetary finance. However, to their surprise, it is now May, and no principals have been appointed.

“Principals are increasingly disillusioned with their roles due to the lack of support from the ministry and even the teachers they lead, who sometimes mock them for merely acting in their roles. “This mockery and the transient nature of their positions contribute to poor academic performance. Currently, 891 schools across the country are managed by acting principals, which presents a significant challenge,” Lichaba added. She further highlighted the predicament of retiring principals who, due to their acting status, receive the same retirement compensation as teachers, not the enhanced package typically awarded to principals.

“We were scheduled to meet with the Minister of Education on April 25, but the meeting was postponed because I was temporarily assigned to the office of the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, we have yet to reschedule, and the minister has not followed up as expected. This lack of communication is a major concern, leaving us uncertain about the prospects of receiving the needed assistance,” Lichaba expressed.

On the other hand, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, General Secretary of the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), has reiterated the long-standing issue of principals serving in acting capacities for extended periods. He referred to the Education Act No. 3 of 2010, which stipulates that principals should be hired under performance contracts not exceeding five years. However, from 2010 to 2011, the government reviewed this policy, citing high costs and logistical challenges in conducting performance appraisals, leading to the appointment of acting principals in some schools.

“In 2018, our first teachers’ strike included demands for making principal positions permanent. Then, during the 2022 national elections, the then Minister of Education, ’Mamookho Phiri, promised around 416 teachers principal positions despite the absence of a budget,” Ntsibolane said. When Rapapa assumed office, he found that principals had been hired without budget provisions but chose to retain them anyway.

This ongoing issue was highlighted during NGO week by Mokhothu Makhalanyane, Chairperson of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Social Cluster. He said efforts are underway to ensure the remaining 800 acting principals, some of whom are nearing retirement, are formally appointed by next month. During the same event at the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre, Makhalanyane explained that the prolonged acting status of principals, some for over a decade, constitutes a violation of human rights.

He noted the frequency of AGMs held on various issues, with education being neglected, and said that no substantial petitions have been received from teachers declaring that their prolonged suffering was intolerable. “Currently, 851 schools in the country lack permanently appointed principals. We cannot continue for another decade of acting principals and still expect transformative changes in our education system.

“The Cabinet has agreed to pay half of the arrears owed to some of these principals and ensure their appointments within this year. “Although the ministry requested an M61 million budget, which was not granted, we are fully aware of the arrears that have frustrated our teachers,” Makhalanyane further showed.

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