By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The possible establishment of a third teachers’ union for the country was yesterday rejected as “pure speculation” and malicious “conjecture” by the Teacher Union of Namibia (TUN). Rumours are rife in education circles that the establishment and launch on Saturday of the Namibia English Teachers Association (Neta) could spell the birth of a third union in rivalry to the existing two, TUN and Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu). “Realistically, there is no room for a third teachers’ union in this country with its approximate 20 000 full-time teachers. In my view, the launch of Neta, a very good initiative, is primarily an English subject oriented association with no real union tendencies,” said the president of TUN, Gert Jansen. According to Jansen, who just returned from a weeklong membership drive in the Erongo Region, subject associations in education are welcome by all and sundry. “We already have a Mathematics and Science Association formed to promote both subjects, why not an English language association too? It makes a lot of sense for Neta to have been established taking into account the many problems faced with the English language as a medium of instruction in Namibian schools,” Jansen said. Jansen said the TUN delegation to the Erongo Region, a purported stronghold of Nantu, recruited more than 110 new members. “Initially, we were sceptical, but throughout the week we found good cooperation and willingness by teachers, specifically at most coastal schools, to listen to TUN’s message of efforts to consolidate its influence in the region. In the process, we were astounded by the fact that most teachers feel left out especially with regard to service conditions,” he charged. He claimed that most teachers whom his delegation spoke to are disillusioned and disheartened by the deterioration of the teaching profession in the country. “Teachers in the Erongo Region are frustrated because they are ill-informed about the real issues concerning their career. This has a profound negative effect and influence on the morale of most teachers in this region. I got the distinct impression that the education authorities in the region do things their own way,” Jansen said. Longer working hours, transfers, vacation and sick leave are some of the specific problems Erongo teachers are struggling with. “Teachers are still forced to find replacement or relief teachers when they apply for annual leave to which they are legally entitled. They also have to pay such replacement teachers from their own pockets. Added to this are overcrowded classrooms teachers have to cope with. The class size is anything from 40 learners per class upwards. This is an unacceptable situation even by Namibian education standards,” the TUN union boss reiterated. “Erongo teachers also have a problem with transfers from one school to another. It is nothing unusual for a teacher to get a telephone call from an inspector instructing him or her to report for duty at another school on short notice. Refusing to do so can land the teachers in trouble with the regional education authorities. “The long delays in the assignment of teachers, specifically in acting capacities, is another major problem in the region with some having to wait for more than a year. This is not the ideal situation for both the appointees and the schools they are assigned to,” he said. TUN is hosting a 15-person delegation of teachers from Botswana this week to expand its international links with the teaching fraternity in the SADC Region. “The purpose of the visit of the Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union is to update and familiarise itself with TUN’s operations and functions as a legitimate union. Issues to be discussed with our Botswana counterparts include trade unionism in general and education matters,” said TUN’s national coordinator, Mahongora Kavihuha.
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