Teachers’ strike rattles churches

Teachers’ strike rattles churches

MASERU – THE chairman of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi, has accused the government of sidelining churches on issues related to teachers grievances. This is despite the fact that most public schools in Lesotho are owned and run by churches.
Lesotho churches own over 90 percent of all public schools, according to the 2006 Ministry of Education article titled Education Challenges in Lesotho: Overview and Country Perspectives.

Teachers have been on strike since last week Monday to press the government to address their concerns.
Archbishop Lerotholi insists that the government should engage churches when addressing teachers’ grievances.
Archbishop Lerotholi, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Lesotho, told a press conference on Monday that the church has a responsibility to advise the government on issues that affect the nation, especially education.

“We proposed negotiations with the government to no avail and we also went to the Government Secretary’s office where we were told that we were forgotten,” the Archbishop said.

He said they wrote several letters proposing negotiations with the government leaders since 2018 but were denied a chance to meet the authorities.

“We will not be silent at all. We will knock doors and talk until we are heard,” Archbishop Lerotholi said.

Reverend Daniel Rantle of the Methodist Church of Lesotho said churches were being discriminated against and denied a right to protect their properties (church schools).
Rev Rantle expressed concern that failure to address the teachers’ concerns was in the violation of children’s rights to education, while the future of the country was being compromised by the standoff.
“We would like to remind the government that we work with the church properties such as schools therefore it is not wise to segregate us,” Rev Rantle said.

Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, said he was unaware that “the CCL is also one of the teachers’ trade unions and so needs to be talked to”.
Asked if the CCL would be included in the talks in future, Mphaka said he was “not sure because I am not the government”.
“I hear for the first time that they came to my office hence I also hear for the first time that they are now a teachers’ trade union,” Mphaka said.

Meanwhile, Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) spokesman Thato Lethobane said teachers would not return to work until ongoing negotiations with the cabinet subcommittee are completed.
Lethobane said teachers’ unions are worried that the Minister of Education and Training Professor Ntoi Rapapa seems to be in denial about the reality of the strike.
He defended teachers’ right to embark on strike.

“The minister should not be releasing intimidating statements against teachers because this would not work,” Lethobane said.
He said workers from other sectors were free to join the strike to sympathise with teachers, citing the action by nurses and the Leribe community recently.

Nkheli Liphoto

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