By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Most parliaments in Africa have become ineffective with regard to the improvement of national education systems in the sub-continent. This was one of the concerns raised in a presidential speech this week of the Southern African Teachers Organisation’s Japhta Radibe of Botswana. He gave an overview of the organisation’s activities and strategies to obtain quality education for all by the year 2015. The Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) is affiliated with 11 other regional teacher bodies to SATO and acts as host for the three-day conference, which ends tomorrow. “Education is not what it used to be, but has become an economic and political entity plagued by a lack of support by African parliaments. We cannot discuss education problems … in these parliaments because most educational decisions are being taken in hotel rooms during close-door meetings. Even the ministries of education in our member countries have become sources of conflict and instability with regard to education,” Radibe claimed to great applause of those present at the conference. According to him, in the African political setup there is money for wars, but not for education. “Because of these tendencies the education systems in our countries are failing because there is never funding for them, but for wars. Teachers are instruments of peace, not war. We are trying to work towards the global improvement of education, not just in our own countries. I am really surprised at and disappointed in our African leaders’ aloof attitudes towards education, constantly in a crisis. When social and health issues confront them, suddenly money is found to curb national issues such as polio outbreaks in Namibia or cow diseases in Botswana,” Japhta said. He hammered on the many other challenges the teacher fraternity is facing in SATO’s member state countries. “There is a lot of confusion about education with regard to resources and the roles teachers are to play in the implementation of government policies. Teachers need to strengthen their unity to confront and circumvent these issues, which have a profound negative effect on the quality of education now and in the future,” he said. Japhta also didn’t spare the rod with reference to the status of the system of the so-called appointment of temporary teachers in the sub-region by political leaders. “To the leaders of those countries where these systems are applicable, would you be prepared to go to a temporary physician with your health problems and ailments? Of course the answer is no, they don’t trust such doctors, but yet, they allow temporary teachers in our schools. We have been crying about this problem and others but to no avail,” the president of SATO said sentimentally. He also elaborated on the constant political subjugation of teachers by ministries of education. “With constant reminders that teachers are not allowed to indulge in politics by education ministries, I say, teaching and education is politics, created by political systems in our countries. These education ministries are perpetually trying to run away with the minds of teachers because they do not want us to talk politics. This notion must be challenged and opposed by all teachers in solidarity of our profession,” Japhta urged. The SATO-strongman also expressed his member country’s concern about HIV/AIDS among teachers. The deputy mayor, Elaine Trepper, welcomed the 30 delegates from 12 countries to the capital on the opening day and also expressed her council’s concerns about the negative effects of the mass media on school-going children.
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