It’s time for cool heads

It’s time for cool heads

IT is becoming clear that the fight between government and teachers will be a long drawn battle.
Schools, students and parents are beginning to bear the brunt of the impasse that we suspect is a result of a dialogue that has become toxic. It is sad that thus far, we have not heard any of the parties suggesting a compromise that will bring the dispute a step closer to a resolution.
Instead, each side seems to have taken a hard-line stance on the matter. The government says it wants to resolve the crisis but does not seem ready to give in to the teachers’ demands.

It now seems to be trying to divide the teachers by signing deals with some of the unions. While we understand the logic of this tactic we believe it is ill-advised. Even if it brings some teachers back to work, we still see it as an incompetent and short-term solution to what is a long-term problem.

Teachers from unions that have not signed the deal will persist with their strike. And those whose unions have an agreement with government will be back in the streets sooner rather than later.
This merry-go-round is therefore likely to continue. We say this because the teachers seem to have a very long list of wishes the government is unlikely to satisfy.

Therefore, the solution is not to attempt to divide and rule the unions but to get them to speak with one voice. At the moment, the government is dealing with five unions with grievances that are broadly the same.
That the unions themselves are squabbling over relevance makes any negotiation particularly tricky.
To make some headway, the government should request a smaller team made up of representatives from the union. Then when the meeting starts, the government should be clear what grievances it can immediately address. The teachers should be clear about their minimum requirements to go back to work.

If the government is unable to meet some of the demands now then it must make a clear commitment on when it will be ready with a solution.

We understand that the teachers will be sceptical of any promises because they have been disappointed before. Many will recall the deal signed between government and the unions late last year.
The agreement had timelines that seem to have been jettisoned or ignored along the way.
The teachers are therefore right to stick to their guns. But such belligerence won’t solve the problem.
The goodwill that teachers had with the public at the beginning of the strike is starting to erode as students idle in classes.
This is not a winner-take-all battle. Nor can it be a war of attrition.

Ultimately both parties should remember that education is not about them but the students.
They should fix this now!

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