‘Teachers’ wrath misdirected’

‘Teachers’ wrath misdirected’

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

EDUCATION Minister Mahali Phamotse yesterday said the decision not to pay teachers in line with their new academic qualifications was not of her own making.

Teachers from various trade unions marched in Maseru last week in protest over the new regulations not to pay teachers who have improved their academic qualifications.

But addressing a press conference in Maseru yesterday, Phamotse said the teachers’ wrath was misdirected.

“You must remember that I only entered this office in February 2015,” Phamotse said, adding that the instruction to suspend payment of teachers according to their newly acquired educational qualifications was given in 2013.

At that time the education minister was ’Makabelo Mosothoane who is from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, a junior partner in the coalition government led by Thomas Thabane.

Phamotse is from Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party.

“This means that the payment according to the improved qualifications could not be included in the budget estimates because there was an instruction to stop the payments,” she said.

“You can testify that those whose promotional certificates were not being paid are those people who have not been paid since 2013 and by that time I was not in office.”

There are at least 2 000 teachers under six categories who are still owed by the ministry to the tune of M179 million.

The ministry has only been able to pay 1 320 teachers.

These are 420 substitutes, 226 promoted teachers, 213 acting principals or heads of departments, 213 deputy principals, three underpaid teachers, 452 new teachers and six cheque revivals.

Phamotse said since she joined the ministry in February last year she has been working hard to help reverse the 2013 decision.

The angry teachers last week accused Phamotse of violating their rights. They demanded that she resigns accusing her of failing to fulfil her mandate.

They said since her arrival at the ministry the situation had got worse.

Phamotse however said the accusations went overboard as they were of a personal nature.

“The accusation of violation of rights of teachers is nothing but a personal attack and not an attack of the office which the King has entrusted me to oversee,” Phamotse said.

“There is no truth in this accusation. It is not my intention that I violate any of your rights while in this office because the strategies and plans of the ministry are only possible through you and without you there is no way that I can do my job.”

Phamotse said what she has been doing since her arrival in the office was to restore the rights of the teachers “that have wrongfully been taken away from them long before I became a minister”.

“I have inherited the wrong decisions of those that presided before me,” she said.

“I have already worked towards rectifying the mistakes of those who left this bad inheritance by paying some of the teachers so that such mistakes do not happen again.”

“It has been three to four years since such money is owed to you and the government in power is looking towards solving this problem together with you,” Phamotse said.

“The money that is owed to you will be paid to you in due time,” she said.

The teachers also complained that they were failing to repay their educational loans because the government was not paying them according to their newly acquired qualifications.

They said when they left their posts and went to further their studies they hoped that their salaries would be increased upon their return.

Many teachers took study leave in 2010 and the following years to improve their educational qualifications after the then Education Minister, ’Mamphono Khaketla who is currently the Finance Minister, passed a policy that restructured salaries according to a teacher’s academic credentials.

Phamotse said teachers should not blame the government for their failure to repay loans because most of them did not follow the right procedures to go to school.

“It was unlawful that all this time teachers had been going to school without making the ministry aware (that they were) going to school,” Phamotse said.

“They go when they want to and at anytime they wish to despite clear guidelines (Teaching Service Regulation, 2002) of what should be done for a teacher to go back to school,” she said.

“No one has followed this procedure,” she said.

Phamotse said the majority of teachers who are vocal about their failure to repay their loans “are the very ones who never informed the ministry that they would be improving their educational qualifications”.

She said in 2010, 2013 and 2014 the ministry wrote savingrams that said the teachers should apply for study leave and follow the right procedures in order to be granted such leave but they were ignored.

“Such things happen when people become deaf to what will affect them later on. I am not saying that is the reason to have not paid you, I am just making you aware of the problems we put each other through when we do not listen to each other,” Phamotse said.

Phamotse said there will surely be debts for teachers who go to school without having informed the ministry because most of them do not check with National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) for funds because they go to school in secret “and when these teachers start going for loan sharks in the hope that they will be paid they put too much pressure on the ministry”.

“Let us all take the responsibility of this matter in that while the government pays you, you become patient as well,” Phamotse said.

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