Teachers denounce ‘draconian’ Bill

Teachers denounce ‘draconian’ Bill

MASERU – HAVE you ever seen a teacher getting zero percent?
That was the clear message teachers sought to deliver to Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as they marched to petition Parliament on Monday to reject the Education Act (Amendment) Bill.
They say the Bill is draconian.

But it was the decision by the government not to award civil servants any salary raise that seemed to have added fuel to the fire of protests by teachers who have downed tools since last month.
“Take it back Majoro and give it to your mother!” they sang.
In Sesotho culture, any negative reference to “one’s mother” is perceived as the ultimate insult.
The teachers, who were in a boisterous mood, handed a list of grievances to Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya. They want the government to review its decision not to award any salary increment to civil servants.
Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa last month tabled the new Education Bill which among other things proposes the no-work, no-pay policy.

The teachers said they will fight that “draconian” policy to the end.
“The first three weeks we are sitting at home and during the fourth we are going to see Rapapa,” they sang.
When they reached Parliament building, they sang: “If I’m getting a zero, I’m going to parliament to lie down,” a subtle dig at the perception that some MPs are in the habit of taking naps in the august House.
As they sang they threw themselves on the ground pretending to be asleep.
The police had ordered them not to sing at the parliament grounds, an order they defied.
The three unions were the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho School Principals Association (LESPA).

The LAT spokesman, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said their major gripe was the Education Bill and the budget speech that were read in Parliament.
Majoro presented the budget speech last week where he awarded a zero percent salary raise for civil servants.
The decision has infuriated civil servants.

Ntsibolane said the Bill removes the responsibility from school boards to manage employer-employee affairs and transfers such responsibility to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
This will destabilise schools because the TSC does not consider teachers chosen by the school boards but considers those chosen by it.
He argued that the formation of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) was not done correctly.
Other Schools do not have principals to the extent that the acting principals are in acting positions for more than five years, he said.

He said section 4 of the Bill tabled by Rapapa gives the minister power to enter schools and take action against teachers without first subjecting those teachers to disciplinary action.
Ntsibolane said this is against principles of good governance.
This means the leadership of teachers’ associations could be fired at any time when the minister feels like it without even considering the law, Ntsibolane said.
He said section 19 of the Bill changes the work of inspectors which is helping schools to do their job perfectly.
He said inspectors are now given power to instruct that disciplinary action be taken against teachers even if those supervising the teachers feel they should not be disciplined.

“It is clear that the purpose is that those leading teachers should be victims of the laws that lead to dismissal,” Ntsibolane said.
He said the principle of ‘no work, no pay’ says teachers should report if they will be absent from work and if not, they should not be paid without considering other internal measures.
He said the principle of ‘no work no pay’ could apply to employees who are paid daily.
Ntsibolane said section 41 of the TSC was enacted to protect criminal activities.
He said the appointment of acting principals for a long time has a direct bearing on the administration and stability of schools.

He said they were pleading with Parliament not to accept the Bill but act quickly to resolve the teachers’ grievances.
He expressed surprise that paragraph 58 of the budget speech read by Majoro said the teachers’ grievances were being addressed.
“If teachers’ grievances were really being worked out we would have returned to work,” Ntsibolane said.
He maintained that the budget did not address the teachers’ grievances.
“Teachers have asked for an eight percent salary adjustment but we did not even get an ordinary salary increment,” Ntsibolane said.
He said the government still owes teachers about M60 million in salary arrears.
“We are pleading with Parliament to review the budget so that teachers’ grievances are addressed,” he said.
When accepting the petition, Lehloenya said teachers have a right to come to Parliament to hand over their grievances.

“All you have to do is to follow the laws governing protests,” he said.
Lehloenya said they have listened attentively to the teachers’ grievances.
He said Standing Order number 79 allows Parliament to be petitioned.
He also said the Clerk of the National Assembly has to take the petition and address the matter appropriately.
We are not expecting you to tell Parliament what to do, because you have voted people into power and you should trust them to decide what is best for you, he said.
He said teachers came at the right time because the Bill has been passed to the relevant Committee that will report to Parliament.

Lehloenya said both teachers and the Ministry of Education have agreed that the pension age for teachers should be reduced from 65 to 60 years.
He said the hiring of principals and the reduction of the age at which one is eligible for a pension should be worked out as soon as possible.

Nkheli Liphoto

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