Former prime minister Nahas Angula says in the event teachers do resort to industrial action, school boards and parents should organise themselves to ensure learners are kept safely in schools to prevent them from engaging in anti-social behaviour.
Angula, himself a former teacher, told New Era that in the likelihood of a countrywide strike learners should also organise themselves into study groups to supervise themselves and continue to study, so as not to lose pace in their preparations for the upcoming exams.
His remarks come as hundreds of teachers affiliated to the Namibian National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) started voting last week on a motion whether to go on strike after Nantu failed to reach an agreement with government on their demand for an 8 percent salary increase.
The voting process is expected to end on Friday, September 16. Most regions, including Khomas, Erongo, Hardap, Kunene and Kavango West, cast their votes last week, with the remaining ones set to votes this week before the final results are announced next Monday, September 19.
“I trust that whatever the teachers decide they will always keep in mind the best interests of the Namibian child. Yes, I do believe in fair remuneration,” he said, “but [that is only possible] if a country can afford it, because you might get good remuneration today and tomorrow the economy collapses.
“It means even your big salary will be affected by inflation and related economic fallout if the country’s economy collapses,” he warned.
Angula said whatever the teachers decide, they should take two things into account: first and foremost, the interest of the learners, and secondly, whether the economy can sustain their demands. “But all in all I have every trust that they will not do something that will hurt both the economy and the children,” he noted.
“In the unlikely event that we reach there (strike action) – though I hope we won’t reach there – the learners should not go and roam the streets. I hope the school boards will also organise themselves to supervise the learners to ensure there is order and if learners need learning materials, they should provide them,” he opined.
“Asked whether he thinks the teachers’ demands are legitimate, Angula said the Constitution protects the right of workers to bargain collectively: “It’s not like the 2012 strike, which Mr (Evilastus) Kaaronda organised illegally and which disrupted teaching in Windhoek. That was an illegal strike. This [planned] one is not illegal, but I hope it will not come to that.”
Amid an acrimonious dispute between government and teachers in 2012 former National Union of Namibia Workers (NUNW) leader Kaaronda had called the walkout by teachers “a progressive step” and encouraged them to mobilise parents to join in the action.
Angula pointed out that teachers are not simply teachers, saying they play a larger role in society: “They play a custodian role. They keep children organised in schools, so they don’t become mischievous outside. They keep children until one o’clock. It’s a very important role.
“I fear that if these children are not properly supervised and have nothing do to they will start roaming the streets and indulge in alcohol abuse and other anti-social things. Therefore, it’s important to keep the children in school and keep them focused.”
In the event that the teachers do vote to strike, Angula predicted that the consequences would be immense and called on both parents and schools boards to organise themselves to safely keep the children in school during such period that classes may be disrupted by the strike.