Churches fear losing grip on schools

Churches fear losing grip on schools

MASERU  – THE Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) says it suspects the government is trying to use the Education Amendment Bill 2019 to take control of church-owned schools in the country.
Reverend Tšeliso Masemene, the CCL’s deputy chairman, told parliament’s social cluster committee that they fear losing control of their schools if the Bill is passed in its current form.

The net effect of the Bill, Reverend Masemene said, is to give the government total control of the church-owned schools. Nearly 80 percent of schools are controlled by churches but the government pays teachers and provides resources.

Reverend Masemene said the proposed amendment means the government will control the hiring of teachers and other operations in schools.
“This changes the whole partnership we have always had for decades. It will amount to a total takeover of church schools by the government,” he told thepost in an interview last night.

He said although the Bill says it seeks to decentralise some functions its wording will achieve the opposite.
The CCL is concerned by a section that says school boards should consult district education officers before recommending who the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) should hire.
School boards are made up of two officials from the church, three parents, a principal, a teacher, as well one representative from the chief and the local government.

Currently, a board would interview and recommend teachers to the TSC.
The Bill proposes to make the education officers central to the hiring because the board will have to consult them before they make recommendations to the commission.
“We are asking why the school boards cannot go directly to the commission as has always been the case. We want to know why the decisions of nine people should be subjected to the view of one person,” Reverend Masemene said.

“What happens if a board and the education officer disagree? That cannot be decentralising but more centralising.”
He said they believe the government has a sinister motive in changing the rules.
“The Ministry of Education is the only ministry that doesn’t hire the majority of its own employees (teachers). I suspect they want that control so they can appoint their own people.”
The reverend said it is not clear what the Bill seeks to change or improve because.

“If you are not clear what you want to change then it is reasonable for people to suspect that you have an ulterior motive.”
He said the Bill doesn’t have an accompanying explanatory memorandum that clearly explains its motive.

Reverend Masemene said they are also worried that the government wants to amend the Education Act of 2010 instead of coming up with regulations.
“Under the 2010 Act they are using the regulations of 2002. Now instead of making new regulations they are bringing amendments to the law.”

“We are saying there is already a draft of the proposed regulations for the 2010 law and we can simply work on those instead of bringing amendments.”
The committee gave the CCL until next Tuesday to bring alternative changes they want in the Bill.
The government says the amendments will “improve the general management of the education sector and maintain the principles of good governance”.

It also says the Bill will clarify the roles and responsibilities of persons and institutions in the sector.
The Bill, the government adds, will remove inconsistences among the laws that govern teachers’ pensions, contracts and retirement age.

Nkheli Liphoto


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