Minister pleads with teachers not to down tools

Minister pleads with teachers not to down tools

MASERU – EDUCATION Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa this week pleaded with teachers not to down tools telling them their grievances were being attended to.
Schools are set to re-open today for the new term.
Three teachers’ unions, the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho School Principals Association (LESPA), last month threatened to down tools to press the government to address their grievances.

The unions and the government will appear before the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) to argue their case on Monday.
Prof Rapapa said the government is committed to address their concerns and has set aside M18.8 million to settle monies that are due to the teachers.
“Teachers and principals are expected to show up at their respectable schools,” Prof Rapapa said.

He said while the teachers are ready to go on protest, they have not followed the correct procedures.
He said the government has not ignored the teachers’ demands. He said there have been a series of consultations they have held with the aggrieved teachers.
Prof Rapapa said Cabinet had resolved to set up a ministerial committee that will be mandated with the task of advising the government on how contracted and pensionable principals should be paid.
He said the payments will be based on their contracts with the Ministry of Education and the advice to be given by the Attorney General.
Secondly, he Cabinet was still deliberating whether it should amend a law that regulates the promotion of qualified teachers.
Rapapa said the Ministry of Education had formed a committee which will drive the reform process on career and salary structure for teachers.
This committee will have representatives from all teachers’ unions, he said.

He said the government had decided to review the list of teachers in August and September 2018 at all schools.
Prof Rapapa said the government is committed to dealing with the teachers’ grievances.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT) national organizer, Koali Koali, said their members will not take part in the picketing.

He said the decision to boycott classes is politically motivated and therefore PALT will not align itself with the other unions on the issue.
Koali confirmed that three of their members resigned when PALT said they would not take part in the protest.
He said this had not made any significant difference because they still command the majority of teachers by way of numbers.
Koali said they are pleased because the Ministry of Education is working towards solving teachers’ grievances.

“It is illegal to boycott work according to the Labour Code,” he said.
He said they do not deny that the ministry owes teachers but the ministry is making an effort to settle the debt.
“Some teachers’ unions do not like us because we do not want to take part in the strike,” he said.

The LAT secretary general, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, maintained they are still not going to attend classes when schools re-open today.
“We are doing it because the government is not doing anything about our grievances,” he added.Ntsibolane said they had sought legal advice and were convinced that their decision is within the ambit of the law.

He said if the government does not give them a convincing and positive answer “we will not go to school”.
“Teachers in this country are going to strike, very few without organisations will go to school but even those who belong to LUT and PALT are going on strike,” he said.

Ntsibolane also said if the government decides to expel or not pay them they already have alternative plans.
“It is not going to be easy for them to either expel or refuse to pay us,” he said.
“We are not afraid of those threats,” he added.

The teachers’ 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.

Nkheli Liphoto & Tokase Mphutlane

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