Government and teachers are at crossroads regarding clashing perspectives on the educators’ salary hike.
It’s marathon antagonism that has gone on for months and – from the look of things – it has now reached a point of emotional confrontations.
True, times are hard as has been the gospel of government on the matter. The successive three years of drought – or seven if you are in Kunene – means billions of dollars had to be diverted from their original expenditures to drought-mitigating activities.
This means many spending priorities have to be juggled with in order to ensure no citizen starves to death – as has been government’s pledge throughout.
Teachers on the other hand believe politicians suffered a temporary lapse in memory to give themselves a salary hike, amidst drought, and therefore believe what’s good for the goose must be as good for the gander. This is their argument, not ours!
Now, we will not delve I to the mathematics of the arguments of either side. What concerns us most is what is at stake in the event that this lack of consensus persists. Education is the mother of all professions, so goes the saying, and this should be a stern reminder to all of us about the implications of the looming strike.
The strike, if the current voting process ends in its favour, would take place during the most important semester of the academic year.
Grades 10 and 12 learners are in the middle of preparations for their life-changing final exams that would dictate their destiny forever.
These innocent children are caught up in a socio-economic conflict that they have nothing to do with – something that the warring parties ought to have in mind at all times.
Already, the country has for a span of years struggled to arrest high failure rates among learners of those two grades and, we are afraid, it could get worse. Last year the pass rate was below 50 percent. Going a notch below this would spell a disaster.
As the negotiation teams forge ahead with their debate and machinations on the subject – they must at all times remind themselves of the duty both parties owe to the future of the Namibian child.
They must do whatever is possible – a compromise from either side is one of the options – to ensure the innocent future leaders of this country do not pay a price for a crime they did not commit.
Government negotiators need to design packages that would entice teachers not to down the chalk. This simply means that where money cannot be availed in hard cash, other options are brought forth to offset whatever would have been the cash value.
Teachers and their unions too must look at the realities on the ground. Government’s cash position is, for a number of reasons, not solid enough to accommodate some of the current demands.
This would mean in order to meet such demands, government might be required to borrow money from somewhere. This would be untenable.
We are already battling high debts as announced recently by the Bank of Namibia and any added weight to this burden would only make the situation worse.
What is clear from where we stand is the need for compromise by both parties. Threats, as dished out by some government officials towards teachers, would only further strain relations and fail the negotiations. Simply put, keep threats out of negotiations.
Neither side must maintain a hard stance without willingness to listen to counter offers and proposals. If that’s the case, the Namibian child, we dare say, will pay the highest price!