Rapapa ouster not the solution

Rapapa ouster not the solution

The woes and frustrations of Lesotho’s teachers seem to be far from over after they endured unfulfilled promises for years at the hands of the Ministry of Education and Training. The miseries of teachers date as far back as the 1990s. Although the 2009 career structure promised to address the long-time woes, it never actually saw the light of day as until now, just a year from its 10th anniversary, it has never been fully implemented.
It is appalling that the Ministry of Education finds it easy to pay ghost workers instead of ensuring the welfare of the teachers that have served it on empty stomachs for almost two years.

This is because mockery, broken promises, being thrown from pillar to post has at last pushed the teachers to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. In Lesotho, for a long time teachers have been a subject of ridicule and heckling by Lesotho governments since time in memorial. In the 1990s during the Military rule the teachers were belittled for fighting for immediate salary increase.
In another instance one Minister was quoted as having said: “If you see man wearing an oversized jacket in Maseru, you should know that he is a teacher who is fighting for a salary raise.”

Amidst this maltreatment who would not be broken?
The long years of heartache, struggles and turbulence for the teachers resulted in the teachers unions’ petition last week to Prime Minister Tom Thabane for the ouster of Prof. Ntoi Rapapa, who is the Minister of Education and Training and the Principal Secretary of the Ministry Dr Thabiso Lebese.

In a well-attended protest the teachers’ unions urged the Prime Minister to axe the duo as soon as possible. But will the dismissal of the Minister and PS be a solution to their grievances?
To answer whether the dismissal of the Minister and the PS will be a solution there is need to look at the main concerns of teachers’ unions. I will just address two of the complaints for now, being no payment for first appointment teachers since 2016 and the principals’ contracts.
On the one hand, the MOET’s failure to pay first appointment teachers that have been owed since 2016 there is really no clear answer as to when those teachers will be remunerated.

How does a Ministry employ people it cannot afford to pay? How are teachers that are not being paid expected to teach effectively and promote quality education? The MOET owes the nation an answer in this regard.
On the other hand, the principals contracts came to an end and most of them are still owed their gratuities, while others have been left in limbo after their contacts ended. The problem with the principals’ contracts is that their implementation was short-sighted and there was no anticipation and budgetary preparations to meet the financial implications that came with the end of the contracts.

Based on the two complaints reviewed here, dismissing Prof Rapapa and Dr Lebese will be a short-term solution. However, the MOET needs a long term solution and that would include revoking sections of the Education Act, 2010, Section 20(2) which states,
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.
Prof. Rapapa and Dr Lebese may go, but as long as this section still exists, another cohort of principals will be up in arms over the payment of their gratuities in the next four or five years.

There is also need to amend the Education Act 2010 and the Teaching Service Regulations of 2002, by adding a clause on remuneration.
Although the Education Act 2010 was implemented after the 2009 salary and career structure, it totally ignores teachers’ remuneration based on qualifications.

The Service Regulations of 2002, Regulation 5 is also very vague and insufficient as it only stipulates educational qualifications without mentioning how remuneration for such qualifications will be done.
Section 20(2) of the Education Act 2010, not the Minister or the PS has proved to be a disaster for both the school management and the MOET budget. The section has long term negative impacts for the MOET if it is not be quickly attended to.

Also, the Ministry of Education and training should review and fully implement the 2009 salary and career structure. The structure is very promising for the teachers as it may be the closest thing teachers could taste in terms of promotions.

However implementing it as it is will create another set of problems especially looking at the monetary implications of the structure in the current economic climate.

Lastly, the Education Sector Plan of 2016- 2026 promises that, “the education quality issues are addressed through the provision of… investing in teacher training and development.”

Unfortunately, the utterances in the strategic plan seem to be just empty promises by governments that appear not intent on fulfilling the promises made to the teachers close to a decade away.

A happy teacher is good for the economic development of Lesotho. It is the duty of the MOET to ensure that teachers are well catered for.
The ministry must create a conducive environment for teachers to work effectively and efficiently.In short remunerate teachers appropriately so that they become productive.

By: Kelello Rakolobe

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