By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Despite a government deadline for Namibian teachers to improve their qualifications by next year, there are still more than 2 165 un- and/or under-qualified teachers that are still teaching. This fact was yesterday announced by the country’s only government-recognized teachers’ trade union, the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu). During a press briefing the union’s president, Simeon Kavila, addressed several pertinent and cardinal union and educational issues in the country. “A memorandum of understanding was signed by Nantu and the government in 1999 to foster improvement of teacher qualifications by 2007. However, it has transpired during a mini research survey that there are still considerable numbers of teachers, some who have been in the teaching profession for more than fifteen years, unable to meet this deadline,” said an obviously frustrated Nantu president, Kavila. He seriously urged his union’s members, the bulk of the un- and under-qualified teachers in the country to make use of the available distance education facilities. “We are sure that once you are registered and are making an effort to upgrade your qualifications, your services will not be terminated. At the same time, we would like our membership to be productive in their teaching and learning profession. We also expect our members to maintain quality service in order to ensure job security. The executive committee is warning teachers that are drawing from the education training and upgrading programmes to refrain from such practice as this might have an adverse effect on their job security,” Kavila said at the press conference. He also expressed his union’s shock about continuing cases of misconduct by teachers. “As a union representing the interest of teachers, it is disturbing to observe that many of our colleagues still continue to indulge in unprofessional conduct such as drunkenness, unholy relationships with minors, absenteeism and putting up cuca-shops close to schools. These trends have profound adverse effects on productivity in the educational sector. We would like our members to refrain from such behaviour because it shames the union to represent a member who, for example, impregnates a schoolgirl. We would rather recommend that such a teacher’s services be terminated because such actions are disgraceful to the teaching profession,” he lashed out. Kavila also expressed some concerns and reservations about the implementation of the government’s Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP). “Nantu is currently not a signatory to any ETSIP component. Although there are many facets in this programme that Nantu supports, such as the formalization of pre-education, standardization of teacher training and subscription to professional ethics, there are others we do not concur with such as the issue of licensing of teachers and staffing norms. At present, we are in the process of compiling a formal document containing our objections with regard to ETSIP in close consultations with our members. ETSIP should be a collective effort from all stakeholders and not another rubberstamp that could fail the test of time,” he warned seriously. The newly elected president also lambasted the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) for allegedly illegally acting as a bargaining agent for teachers in certain regions. “TUN is only a registered union, not a recognized one by government under the Labour Law. As such the union is not allowed to represent any teachers on any committee or platform at school, regional or ministerial level. There are regions that do not understand this difference and invite TUN to attend meetings or represent teachers,” said Kavila, who emphasized the fact that Nantu is the only teachers’ union that has signed a collective agreement with the government. With regard to accommodation problems of teachers in rural areas, especially in the north of the country, Kavila complained that they are not provided with proper accommodation. “Most of these areas are not proclaimed and teachers cannot buy property in such areas. It would also not be economically wise to build permanent structures with a loan in these areas as an individual teacher. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government as the custodian of education in the country to provide proper lodging facilities for teachers in these areas,” said Kavila, who also applauded government’s efforts in taking up the accommodation problem seriously as a matter of urgency. The Nantu president expressed the hope that school space will not again be a problem in the new year. “Nantu supports the government’s efforts to accommodate learners as well as the hope that the 2007 academic year will be one of action and productivity and that the January 2007 school registrations will be hassle-free,” said Kavila, who also wished his union members a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.