Teachers unions petition Lesotho parliament

NKOATE THAMAE

Teachers’ trade unions petitioned the Lesotho Parliament to intervene in their grievances, in particular the proposed Education Amendment Bill 2019 which states that “If a teacher is absent from duty without permission, the principle of no work no pay shall apply notwithstanding any disciplinary procedure provided for under that Act”.

A petition was hand delivered to Deputy Speaker of Parliament Teboho Lehloenya in the presence of Clerk of Parliament Fine Ramaema at the Parliament premises on Monday this week.

The 2019 Education Amendment Bill was earlier presented to Parliament against the background of ongoing teachers strike which has brought learning to standstill around the country.

Lesotho teachers have been on strike since February 18 to press government to, among other grievances, award them salary increases and improve their working conditions.

According to Chairperson of Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Letsatsi Ntsibolane, who was recently reinstated to his work after the court ruled that his dismissal was unfair and unconstitutional, their petition comprises three major points namely; the Education Bill 2019 which he described as undesirable, their general demands and 2019/20 budget.

Ntsibolane outlined teachers demand government to amend and accelerate the process of school principals, employment and that government gets rid of school principals’ acting positions with immediate effect.

In addition, he said, LAT said reducing teachers’ retirement age from 65 years to 60 has nothing to do with termination of their policies’ insurance.

“The choice is yours weather you want to proceed with your policies or not. Again, if you want to retire at the age of 50, the choice is yours”, Ntsibolane explained.

He accused the Minister of Education and Training Prof Ntoi Rapapa of acting in bad faith by allegedly seeking amendment to the Education Act of 2010 to give himself and his successors more power to control and ensure that it would be easy to fire teachers whenever they stage job action to press government to resolve their grievances.

Ntsibolane disclosed that Rapapa was not aware that teachers are not paid on a daily basis therefore the rule of no work no pay can’t apply to them prior to the no work no pay clause encoded in the International Labour Organisation and the Lesotho Labour code.

“We are knowledgeable as to when and how the issue of no work no pay should be applied,” Ntsibolane said.

Ntsibolane also said the Ministry of Education and Training vested more power on the school supervisors to take legal action against any teacher on the mere suspicion that he/she has done something wrong.

He further explained that they delivered their grievances to Social Cluster Committee in the Parliament long time ago and up to now they have not received any response from them therefore he pleaded with Parliament to deal with their demands as soon as possible.

“If you were expecting that the recent budget speech would address the 8% delayed structure and other teachers’ main demands, it does not do so,” Ntsibolane explained.

He added that they need extra M10 million on top of M50 million allocated by government to pay their outstanding debts, including arrears.

“Paragraph 58 of the budget speech 2019/20 indicates that most of the teachers’ grievances have been addressed. But teachers would be at their workplace if our grievances have been dealt with and that information is misleading,” Ntsibolane said.

Ntsibolane also indicated that the recent budget even failed to effect regular civil servants’ increment, and instead came up with 0% increase.

Ntsibolane concluded that according to the new career structure, there is need for teachers’ employment and bulk purchase of learning materials for high quality education. Ntsibolane added that the recent budget is not sufficient to cater for those things.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Teboho Lehlenya explained that they will deliver teachers petition to the parliament.

The petition was supported by three teachers’ unions namely; the Lesotho Association Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Unions (LTTU) and the Lesotho Association of School Principals (LESPA).

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