DTA president McHenry Venaani has called on government to restore the dignity of teachers who have in recent weeks been locked in an acrimonious tug-of-war over a salary hike.
Venaani said government should freeze capital projects that are not urgent for a period of three years and divert those funds to pay for the salary increments of teachers.
Teachers are demanding an eight percent salary increase, which the government says is an unreasonable demand due to the prevailing economic conditions and, therefore, has stuck to the five percent increase it offered in the first place
Venaani says government is currently spending money on non-priority projects, such as the construction of a new parliament building and buying military equipment, but apparently cannot afford to increase the salaries of teachers.
Addressing the media yesterday, Venaani said the teachers’ dispute is not only about money. It’s not about percentages, it’s about the need to be valued, respected and treated with the dignity, he said.
He further said teachers shape the future of the Namibian child and the country.
“How did teachers go from being the role models that every child aspires to be like, to having to scrape for a living at the bottom of the Namibian (economic) pit?” Venaani asked.
He said growing up there were only a few professions that were widely respected and open to black people under the colonial regime and teaching was one of those coveted professions.
He said a child’s formative years are spent firstly with their parents, but as soon as they are old enough their first major contact with the world outside their family is at kindergarten and school – under the guidance of teachers.
“Teachers are consequently the people who form and mould our children into the adults that they eventually become,” he said. Therefore, teachers determine the quality of the next generation of Namibian youth that will shape the future of the country.
“If the youth are the future, then the teachers are the past and present that determine that future,” he stated. He said if society values teachers, why are there teachers in rural areas who are forced to live in corrugated iron shacks?
“Why are there teachers who have to walk many kilometres to fetch drinking water, cook on firewood and use the bush as toilets? If we value our teachers, why do we pay them wages that mean that the majority of them cannot afford decent housing in Namibia?” he asked.
“This is the role of teachers in any given society. The question is: do we value our teachers? Do we treat them with the respect and dignity befitting of professionals, who are central to shaping our future as a country?” he asked.
He said in many instances when pass rates are not what the nation expects, the first people to get the blame are teachers. “We’re quick to call them ‘lazy, unqualified, drunkards’ – the list goes on… but when teachers say they cannot teach under tents and trees with no textbooks in classrooms of 40 plus pupils, do we listen? Do we care?”
“The building blocks of any society are its teachers, nurses and policemen,” Venaani stressed.
He said the value one attaches to these members of our society determines the quality of life and developmental potential of the country at large. He said without teachers there would be no journalists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, plumbers and yes, even politicians.
He said, teachers deserve to be heard and should not have to resort to strike action to be heard.
“This dispute is not about money, it’s not about percentages. It’s about the need to be valued, respected and treated with the dignity that is becoming of the people who shape the future of the Namibian child and our country,” he said.
According to Venaani, the debate is not about comparing increases for political office-bearers to those of teachers or demanding that money from planned capital projects be diverted to teachers’ salaries.
The underlying question is why we are here to begin with, he remarked.
“It is my fervent hope that within the next few days we will all, as the Namibian nation, wake up from our deep sleep and show the teachers that we respect and value them,” he said.
– Additional reporting by Nampa