Clarify amendments to Education Bill

Clarify amendments to Education Bill

One of the reasons teachers are on strike is because of Section 20(2) of the Education Act 2010 which stipulates that a principal of a public school shall be appointed by the appointing authority on such terms and conditions as may be specified by the Minister in consultation with the Minister responsible for finance and for a period not exceeding five years.

This section, I believe, was propagated without foresight especially concerning the financial implications it had for the Ministry of Education and Training. In trying to redress some of the problems that are facing the education sector, the ministry in consultation with relevant stakeholders agreed on the amendment of the Education Act 2010. One of the reasons for the amendment is to harmonise laws that seem to be conflicting.

It is for the aforementioned reasons that the Minister of Education and Training Prof Ntoi Rapapa last week tabled an Amendment Bill to the Education Act 2010 in the National Assembly.

Conversely, the Bill has included a very controversial and highly debated section that the teachers say is draconian. The newly introduced section reads as follows: “If a teacher is absent from duty without permission, the principle of no work no pay shall apply notwithstanding any disciplinary procedure provided under this act.”
The principals and teachers’ unions are complaining about the timing of this Bill since they view it as an attempt by the Minister to intimidate them into ditching their strike.

There are other people on social media platforms who also agree with the stance of the teachers and feel the Minister should withdraw the proposed Bill. It is yet to be seen how MPs, especially those from the opposition, will react to this Bill when it comes back to the House from the committee.

I neither support nor reject the proposed amendment. This is because there are issues I would like to be clarified before I take a stance regarding this Bill.

However, what I already know at this point is that there are principals of some schools that have had a headache for years caused by teacher absenteeism.

I remember vividly that in some years not very long ago, the Principal of Lesotho High School was complaining that students at her school had not performed well in Mathematics that year as she had problems with the Maths teacher who was always absent from duty without permission.

She further lamented that her efforts to bring the teacher to book proved futile as expelling a teacher is a laborious and complicated task. Could the proposed amendment Bill be a hope for principals in the same dilemma?
As such, before I support or criticise the proposed amendment to the Education Act 2010, there are just a few questions I would have liked to ask the Ministry of Education and Training regarding this new legislation. I am not a lawyer and my knowledge of the law is very limited.

However, a brief introduction I was accorded in the course leadership and management and my knowledge of the education landscape in Lesotho may have given me a bit of an insight into how schools are run or how they are supposed to function.

The first question that I would like the promulgators of this section to answer is with regard to the part “when the teacher is absent without permission.” I take it the permission here would be given by the head of department, the deputy principal or the principal. Then the question is, does this principle also apply to the principals?
Secondly, it is no secret that in some schools there is bad blood between the principals and the teachers, so in this case, will the law not be used to fight personal battles between these feuding groups?

Thirdly, were all the relevant education stakeholders consulted during the promulgation of this anticipated amendment?
The reason for this particular question is to find the spirit in which this amendment was made. Who proposed the said amendment and why was it proposed?

Another question that I would like to pose is: Had the teachers not embarked on a nationwide strike, would the ministry still have proposed the addition of the principle of no-work, no-pay into the education legislation? What triggered the ministry to include this principle in the Act?

Research I have thus far carried out regarding the implementation of policies in Lesotho has indicated that the Ministry of Education, like other all other Lesotho government ministries and departments, is very good at formulating polices that are never implemented.

Who will monitor the implementation of this section of the law? Whose responsibility will it be to ensure that indeed a teacher is not being victimised by the principal because they have a bone to crush? Who will ensure that indeed the no-work, no-pay principle is applied in a fair and unprejudiced manner in all schools?

When all my questions are answered maybe I will be able to comment whether the proposed amendment is to the benefit and improvement of quality education in Lesotho or whether it is a ploy by the Ministry of Education and Training to scare teachers from their industrial action.

By: Kelello Rakolobe

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