Erongo teachers ready to ‘down tools’

While Erongo teachers are getting ready to strike, if their demand for an 8 percent salary increase is not met by the government, Grade 12 learners are living in fear that this will impact on their matric results.
Large groups of educators turned up at various voting stations in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis on Wednesday to exercise their right to vote either in favour or against a strike, after a national labour dispute was declared between the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (NANTU) and government.
“We are not going to accept a 5 percent increase offered and that is that,” said one of the teachers, while standing in a long queue at the Tamariskia Primary School on Wednesday.
“This is not just about the strike, but about teachers demanding respect for a profession that is being taken for granted by our leaders. With the rising cost of inflation we cannot afford to feed our families,” he said.
“Why do teachers have to be satisfied with a 5 percent increase, while other government departments receive huge increments, drive luxurious cars and spend freely,” another teacher said.
“If the government wanted us to consider the wellbeing of the learners during exam time, then they should have just met our demand for an 8 percent salary increase from the onset, and all of this could have been avoided.”
Expressing his concern about the effects a possible strike will have on Grade 12 learners in the upcoming month, Swakopmund Secondary School headmaster, Sinvula Sibanga, said the situation should not have been allowed to deteriorate.
“As the headmaster of a leading school at the coast, I am disappointed in the manner in which this matter has evolved, because this salary battle is instilling fear and insecurity amongst our learners, who are about to write their exams,” Sibanga said.
“This is a critical time for our learners, especially as we move into the preparation phase for the year-end examinations, with the orals already having started.
“And whilst I fully stand behind the 8 percent salary increment, the repercussions of a strike at this time of the school calendar can make or break our 2016 matric results.
“I believe that the government could have prevented what is happening now.”
NANTU Secretary General, Basilius Haingura, who spent Wednesday driving up and down the coast, while visiting the various voting stations, said there had been a satisfactory turnout.
“With a teacher population of nearly 1,600 at the coastal schools, I am certain that at least 60 percent came to cast their votes,” Haingura said.
When asked if he thought the timing of the pending strike was not bad judgement, in light of the upcoming year-end exams, he said the union is aware that the possibility of a teacher strike could have a negative impact on the learners, but government has been dragging its feet, as negotiations started last year already. 
“This has been a long time coming, and basically the teaching profession is tired of the empty promises, and if it means us taking drastic bargaining measures, in order to be taken seriously, then a strike it will be,” Haingura declared.
He added that if the salary increase and bargaining conditions are not met, a notification will be served to the teachers within 24 hours, and a nationwide strike could begin indefinitely.
The voting this week came hot on the heels of a salary increase announcement at the coast, delivered on behalf of the education ministry on Monday, by Erongo Regional Governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua.
The governor told a handful of teachers that had gathered that the education budget represents the bulk of the total national budget, and the government felt that it was being unfairly accused of indifference to the plight of teachers.
“Without pre-emptying your decision in this regard, please be aware that a decision to strike will negatively affect the learners, and those opting to strike will lose their income during the period, which will directly affect other fringe benefits,” the governor said.