The lengthy tiffs between teachers’ associations and the government of Lesotho are far from over as teachers mull abandoning of chalks and classrooms in a nationwide strike until they are paid their dues.
There seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel in this matter which has become the talk of the country since 2018, thrusting four associations to take the matter to arms.
Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday the President of Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) Ramakhula Mafokane said as three associations LTTU, Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) and Lesotho Schools Principal Association (LESPA), it has been about four years now since they had problems with their employer, Ministry of Education and Training saying this has been dragging since 2018.
“We have recognised that there is a problem with our government and that is seen through a series of events of corruption or misuse of funds that leads to our agreement with them being delayed. We are of the view that the Ministry Education does not take seriously the agreement we signed with them and that makes us to question their priorities,” he said.
“We acknowledge the fact that whenever there is a disagreement, the affected parties come together and talk towards solving the problem, but with the Ministry of Education being a problem and therefore we find ourselves with no option but to go back to our agreement.
“The agreement in clause 7 (a) says when there is a breach of agreement by the ministry we have only two options; to execute dragging the government to court or resume with the strike. In the meantime we are going back to our members in the districts to discuss our plan of action of executing our two options,” he said.
Mafokane said they are aware that education is not only about them but there are students and parents getting hurt in the process “that is why we encourage them also to have their own associations or groups that will speak for their rights when they are violated.”
He says going on strike will be beneficial for teachers because that will force their employer to answer to their grievances.
The General Secretary of LTTU, ‘Mamoholoane Foleng stated that they have realized that the ministry does not take seriously teacher’s concerns. She also said they are of the view that when teachers are affected the results are felt deeply by students as well as parents. “We now plea to the public to get involved and fight for the rights of their children,” she said.
“When we failed to meet the minister of education and training we wrote to the subcommittee of ministers but the committee never responded. We have heard that the agreement is not implemented because there is no budget for that. But we are surprised with the fact that for some other reasons money is made available to solve other problems that are prioritized by the government,” she said.
The Secretary General of LAT Letsatsi Ntsibolane said they have tried in all means to communicate with the ministry of education but to no avail.
“We wrote several letters to the government even directly to the ministry of education but to date there is no communication from the government. We even tried to communicate through the media but still there was a problem,” he said.
“That is why we are not saying we are giving the government certain time to solve our issues but we are saying we are giving us a month to talk to our members so that when we resume our strike in a safe manner and do not get anyone affected badly, he explained”
According to Ntsibolane the agreement with the government was that all issues tabled in the agreement are given until October 30, 2019.
According to the government of Lesotho Agreement in the matter between the government of Lesotho and LAT, LTTU and LSPA teachers demanded review of teacher’s career and salary structure, promotion on qualifications for approximately 440 teachers already at school upon amendment of the teaching service regulations 2002, implementation of the new curriculum, arrears and other pending issues.
On the matter of arrears both parties agreed to submit, exchange and verify the list of teachers whose payments are in arrears, it is agreed that a circular shall be issued requesting the concerned teachers to submit claims by the by the April 30, 2019. Teachers are also expected to complete forms indicating the period within which they are in arrears. Ministry shall compile a payment plan in terms of when the arrears were incurred and this was scheduled for by 30th April 2019 and all the teachers arrears shall have been paid by the end of the second quarter of the financial year 2019/2020 being 30th August 2019.’’
Meanwhile, on behalf of the Ministry of Education the Principal Secretary (PS) Higher Education Dr Lira Khama indicated that the Ministry is doing all it takes to make ends meet.
“We are aware of teacher’s grievances and we have been working closely with their associations to see to it that we get them answers. As one of the efforts the Ministry has done, we have paid a lot of teachers their salaries and only 35 of them are left and they will be paid soon.
“We had continuous meetings with the stakeholders to find out how and where we can get the money to pay teachers even if it’s not going to cover all that but there has to be some progress in paying them,” he said.
The PS also indicated that Covid-19 has affected many channels of the government making money thus not only the Ministry of Education is affected.
Khama stated that the Ministry had written to the government through the Budget Controller to secure budget pay teacher’s arrears.
“I am promised that there will be money made available but at the moment we do not know how much, we will only know towards the end of the week and as soon as it is made available payments will start to be processed,” he said.