Psychological exam of elderly teachers irks TUN

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Windhoek

Teacher’s Union of Namibia (TUN) president Mahongora Kavihuha says the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture must provide scientific proof that when teachers reach the age of 60 they experience psychological and mental complications that may affect their teaching abilities.

Mahongora’s comments come after the director of Khomas Education Directorate Gerard Vries sent out a directive on retirement and retention of service beyond retirement age, saying that to ensure the interests of the public service are safeguarded, upon a request for continued employment of a staff member who reaches retirement age, a full medical and psychological report completed by a medical practitioner and registered psychologist, must accompany the motivation for the retention of their services.

The directive, signed by Vries in October, said the Public Service Act of 1995 provides for the retention of the services of a staff member beyond retirement age for a period lasting no longer than the last day of the month in which she or he attains the age of 67 – if such retention is considered to be in the interest of the public service.

The directive further explains that requests for extension must be submitted via the school principal, inspector of education, or chief education officer to the regional director of education, arts and culture for onward submission to the Secretariat of the Public Service Commission, at least six months prior to the retirement date, accompanied by a full motivation.

However, the directive also indicated that in the instance where skills are difficult to replace, guiding principles are applicable, specifically in cases where posts have been advertised at least twice and remain vacant, where there is evidence of a shortage of the particular skills/qualifications in the labour market in higher paying levels, and the skills required for the position require an advanced knowledge in a field or science or discipline acquired by a prolonged course or study and or special instruction, or years of service.

Unhappy with the directive, Mahongora said it solely targets teachers, as if only teachers have a responsibility to protect the image of the public service. The union leader was at a loss to explain how a teacher’s mental health can be affected, or changed within a few days of the teacher turning 60 years old in December, if they wish to continue teaching in January.

Mahongora said the ministry should withdraw the circular, or the union would take further action, because the directive is not responsive to the chronic shortage of teachers in the country. However, he said if the directive is informed by statistics the union would rest its case. He further noted that the directive places a real financial and psychological burden on teachers.

“The same Act does not require other public service employees to go through the same process. We see it as unfair, humiliating, disrespectful and in disregard of teachers and our profession as whole,” stated the TUN president.
He also asked why the ministry allows learners who completed Grade 12 to teach, while a teacher with more than 20 years teaching experience is subjected to medical check-ups when they reach 60. “If you go through parliament… did they (MPs) go through the check-ups, so why should teachers be subjected to that?”

Education ministry spokesperson Johanna Absalom said they are not sidelining anyone, but are concerned with the wellbeing of all teachers. Absalom said they are guided by the public service staff rules in their policies and decisions.

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