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Government throttles teachers

Oct. 3, 2019 3 min read

MASERU – Threats by government to kerb dissent in the teaching fraternity in the long-drawn-out industrial action by some teachers’ unions have materialised, with scores of teachers this month not getting paid.

Lesotho teachers’ unions on Monday said they presented their dissatisfaction with the issue before the government also asking it to address the salary restructuring.  Talks between the two parties were still in progress at the time of going to print by Wednesday. “At the end of the meetings it is expected of us to release a statement regarding latest developments on unpaid teachers’ salaries for the month of September, other issues will also be addressed,” the unions’ representative Letsatsi Ntsibolane told Metro on Wednesday. 

“Government has erred in withholding teachers’ salaries because some of those who were not paid actually went to work during this period in question, the ‘No work, No pay’ principle has also been misguidedly applied without counting the number of days teachers absented themselves from work,” Mr Ntsibolane added. This follows government’s warning through its Cabinet sub-committee dealing with teachers’ grievances that had in August pleaded with teachers currently on strike to go back to work, while their grievances were being addressed. The strike continued regardless of the warning hence the government resorting to applying the strict measure of ‘No work, No pay’.

The chairperson of this cabinet sub-committee dealing with the education crisis, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, did not mince words in his threats last month that if teachers failed to heed government’s instruction to resume work, they would not be paid.  Chief ’Maseribane reasoned while peaceful strikes were allowed within a democratic framework of good governance, such industrial actions were applied for and not enforced. 

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He said as much as teachers concerns should be addressed “teachers should also ensure that children’s access to education was valued and respected”. It was in a media briefing that Chief ’Maseribane highlighted some of the measures currently undertaken to address the teachers’ grievances. 

Among others, he stated that the Ministry of Education had placed temporary staff in the Teaching Service Department (TSD) in order to help speed up payment processes; more would be allocated at a later stage. Government’s statement by 'Maseribane followed a series of meetings with teachers’ representatives and other stakeholders such as the Development for Peace Education (DPE) and the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) which were intended to prevent the continuation of the strike.

Education minister, Professor Ntoi Rapapa, on Monday argued the ‘No work, No pay’ posture adopted by government could only be reversed by a cabinet decision. He, however, could not spell out the criteria used to effect salary payment as some teachers who reported for duty stations were still not paid.He urged such teachers to write to the Principal Secretary-Basic Education, Dr Neo Liphoto to plead their cases.

Prof Rapapa could not be drawn into affirming if those teachers who did not get their September salaries would still get them, only saying that was up to cabinet to decide. He, however, revealed government had already received correspondence representatives of concerned teachers’ unions asking for government to review the ‘No work, No pay’ policy.

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