Teachers’ meeting ends in chaos

Teachers’ meeting ends in chaos

MASERU – A meeting to break the impasse between teachers and their unions over the strike descended into chaos last Saturday, amid ugly scenes.
The meeting at Lesotho High School was organised by the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) and Development for Peace Education (DPE), a lobby group, to make peace between the teachers and their unions.

On the panel were representatives of the Lesotho Teachers’ Trade Union (LTTU) and Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT). The Lesotho Association of Teachers was not represented.
The organisers were about to proceed at around 11am when a group of angry teachers broke into song, denouncing their union leaders. They accused their union leaders of “selling out” when they cut a deal with the government to end the strike.

Some complained that the meeting should not have been called on a Saturday when they are busy with funerals.
Others demanded that the union leaders should first apologise for their alleged “treachery” before the meeting proceeded.
The teachers then walked out of the hall, forcing the mediators and union leaders to abandon the meeting.

Gibson Matlenya, the LAT’s Maseru district spokesman, confirmed that the meeting failed.
“Teachers demanded an apology from their negotiating team saying they sold them out when they signed a document calling off their strike without consulting them,” Matlenya said.
“Teachers were also not happy that they were called on a Saturday by the negotiating team that has been silent for long.”
“The teachers’ biggest demand was an apology and assurance that their grievances are being seriously taken into consideration.”

Matlenya said the teachers are unhappy that the unions are calling them to meetings when they have failed to pressure the government to deal with their grievances over salaries, allowances, pensions and work conditions.
He said teachers are worried that the unions are telling them to go back to work when the government is yet to fulfill its promise to review the Career and Salary structure by August 29.

“With what strength were they talking to us yet all they promised was never fulfilled? All they wanted was to tell us to go to school,” he said.
Matlenya said the teachers have vowed to follow the initial striking schedule that unions suspended last month after an agreement with the government.
“This week we are on strike, we will only attend classes starting from next week then start again for more weeks,” Matlenya said.
According to the strike schedule, teachers will report for duty next week and resume their strike from September 30 to October 18. Thereafter they will report for duty from October 21 to 25.

That pattern will continue until December, according to the schedule.
Cornered, the government has said striking teachers will not receive their salaries. It has also instructed school principals to keep a list of teachers who do not report for duty.
The unions said they have encouraged their members to end the strike because the government has agreed to address their concerns.
Some principals and teachers have returned to work but the majority remains on strike, insisting that they will not work until the government has acceded to their demands.

The government’s no-work-no-pay policy has divided the teachers.
At a meeting at Lesotho High School last Wednesday principals said they were now caught between a rock and a hard place.
They said they fear the government might victimise them if they don’t submit lists of striking teachers. They are also worried that they might be attacked by teachers if they comply with the government’s orders.

Nkheli Liphoto

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