Teachers threaten revolt
Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) Secretary General, Basilius Haingura, says that teachers may “end up revolting and taking legal action”, following a decision by the education ministry to discontinue payments for their studies.
NANTU represents over 20,000 teachers countrywide.
Haingura was responding to the recently announced raft of austerity measures to be introduced by the ministry in the upcoming 2017/18 financial year.
The ministry last week that that teachers were no longer allowed to go on paid study leave, while recruitment has also been frozen, unless approved by Permanent Secretary, Sanet Steenkamp.
As part of the new measures, no relief teachers will be appointed in a post occupied by a permanent staff member, who is also earning a salary during the same period.
Haingura said that cutting the budgets of key ministries was “detrimental and compromising”, especially to the education of the Namibian child.
In his view, these measures were not only unreasonable, but were also damaging to the education sector.
The union leader demanded to know the fate of teachers whose applications for study leave had already been approved, before the notice was sent out.
“What will happen to people who had already planned and had their study leaves approved? These teachers might end up revolting and taking legal action,” he said.
Haingura described the freeze on recruitments as absurd, given the shortage of teachers in the regions, where in some cases; the teacher to learner ratio is 1: 100.
“Relief teachers are very important and we are going to request the regions to provide data on whether there are teachers still needed.”
He further said that the austerity measures introduced by the ministry were supposed to be put in place a long time ago, when the economic situation started deteriorating.
“Government started experiencing financial problems a long time ago. Why is it they only decided to act now, when it was too late, ripping off the bandage when they could have done this gradually.”
Steenkamp, however, said the decision to implement the austerity measures was reached after serious discussions with the staff and management of the ministry.
She said that if a teacher is qualified to teach, and they want to go and study for a master’s degree, the ministry will not make provisions for that.
“It is not fair for someone to go and study for four years, while the ministry pays out two salaries for one position. The essential qualification for teaching is a degree,” she said.
The permanent secretary added that the ministry is not discouraging anyone from studying, hence they are encouraging distance learning.
“The world is changing and e-learning is taking over, so those who are eager to study can do so and still do their work,” she said.
Steenkamp said that over the years, the ministry had been empowering staff members and had paid for their studies.
“We have invested millions into staff development, paying in full for those who wanted to study,” she said.
On whether this move would affect the already sub-standard pass rate, Steenkamp said the pass rate was affected by a number of issues, which included teacher absenteeism, time spent on tasks and parental involvement.
“We are not preventing anybody from furthering their studies, it just has to be from their own pockets,” she said
Steenkamp added that teachers who had applied for study leave last year are not affected, because their applications had already been approved.