Teachers set to down tools

Teachers set to down tools

MASERU – TEACHERS and principals say they will down tools when schools reopen on August 2 in protest over the new Teachers’ Career and Salary Structure.
The Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers’ Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Principals Association (LESPA) say the government has until month-end to address their grievances. Their biggest gripe is that they were never consulted when Parliament passed the new Teachers Career and Salary Structure regulations as is required by the law.
Under the new structure, teachers will no longer be paid based on their educational qualifications.

They also say the appointment of teachers should be reviewed because some teachers were not employed with the blessings of the school boards.
They are also not happy with the performance contracts introduced by the Ministry of Education.
They say principals who were engaged on this basis are in dire straits as they have never been paid since their employment.
Only 20 were paid while 160 have never been paid.

Teachers also want the Pension Fund to issue out Pension Benefit Certificates.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, their spokesman, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said teachers will not attend classes until the government has addressed their grievances.
Ntsibolane said their strike is likely to extend indefinitely if the government does not yield to their pressure.
He said they reached the decision to strike after their numerous fruitless talks with the government.

On May 2 the three unions petitioned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane with their grievances.
They also told Thabane to fire Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa for allegedly failing to address their grievances.
Ntsibolane said the ball is now in the government’s court.
“It is now up to the government what happens between now and August 2. We were patient from February until today when we are saying enough is enough,” Ntsibolane said.
He also said they had received “empty” responses from Thabane.

“The Prime Minister’s response is just a copy and paste of what the Education Minister said earlier,” he added.
He said Thabane said if they are not satisfied with his answer they should get back to him.
“We told him that we are not satisfied during our meeting on May 20,” he added.

Ntsibolane also said Thabane listened to their grievances then passed their issues to the Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka.
He said Mphaka was then told to start working on their issues from the following day then call a meeting that would involve all stakeholders in the following week.
But this was never done, he said.

“The meeting did not happen, instead it was postponed to the next week but still did not happen,” he said.
Ntsibolane said two weeks later they were called to a meeting with Mphaka, the Principal Secretary of Law and Constitutional Affairs and the government spokesman.
“We expected to meet the Prime Minister but he was not there and still we adhered to that meeting,” he said.

He said the meeting was the same with their previous meetings as they were asked to elaborate their grievances instead of the government telling of its position.
“The meeting was not fruitful and was adjourned with a promise that the following Thursday we would get our response but to no avail,” he added.
Ntsibolane also said on that Thursday, the Government Secretary told them that they had not yet reached any conclusion.
“He then said we should postpone the meeting to the following Thursday,” he said.

“It was then that we realised that our employer does not recognise our grievances. It is clear dialogue does not help,” he added.
He also said they wrote a letter to Thabane thanking him for listening to their complaints as teachers’ associations.
He said they are not surprised when some people call them politicians.

“We used to be called politicians even in the past regime. People should know that trade unionism is not about party politics,” he said.
Government spokesman, Moahaloli Mphaka, said the government is aware of the teachers’ grievances and is working to address them.
“We involved the law experts so that their law-based grievances can be looked into and solved,” he added.

“I am saying schools will re-open because their grievances are going to be (addressed). I did not say schools will open by force or teachers will go to school by force,” Mphaka said.
He said it is not just teachers who have grievances citing the case of textile workers.
“These issues are being worked on by the cabinet and committees have been set up to deal with some of them.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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