Some teachers in Windhoek have allegedly already started boycotting classrooms ahead of the much-awaited results of a motion on whether to embark on a nationwide strike.
Some Grade 8 learners, who preferred that their names not be mentioned for fear of victimization, told New Era yesterday that some of their teachers, especially of crucial subjects such as mathematics and English, have not pitched up for classes since schools re-opened two weeks ago.
According to them, since the voting process started learners now spend most of their time at school doing revision of last term’s work.
Thousands of concerned parents are in limbo over the future of their children – seeing that it’s the final term of the school calendar.
Parents are also concerned about what contingency plans the ministry has in place in the event teachers do resort to industrial action.
Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa in an interview yesterday said the ministry was not aware that some schools are not offering classes.
“I must lay a formal complaint for people to act on that. We will follow up through the director of education to ensure that what is happening, if it is true, does not really happen. We caution schools not to disrupt learning and teaching at this stage because there is still the outcome of voting. The schools must continue with teaching and learning and they are cautioned not to find themselves on the wrong side of the law by disadvantaging the kids,” she reacted.
Her 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 or not, after Nantu failed to reach an agreement with government on their demand for an eight percent salary increase.
“The government’s position is that we are able to give only five percent, and if there is a misunderstanding amongst teachers that if they are voting then they will get the eight percent – that is a falsehood. Even if they win the voting, we will not be able to give them the eight percent,” said the education minister. Asked on the government’s possible contingency measures, Hanse-Himarwa said she would have a consultative meeting with her senior team to discuss such plans should a strike occur.
“We already started discussing strategies which I will not reveal at this stage. I am sitting with my senior team next week Wednesday where we will have a formal position on what is happening in case the decision is taken to strike,” she explained.
Equally, parents are also concerned about where the ministry will get teachers to teach learners should a strike happen, knowing the country already faces a huge teacher shortage.
The Education Management Information System (EMIS) statistics for 2012 indicate that Namibia has about 24 660 teachers of whom 1 208 are without teacher training and about 3 000 are underqualified.
The minister assured parents and guardians that teaching and learning will continue especially since the Grade 10 and 12s will start exams on September 30.
“It is a legitimate concern, but parents must be assured that we will do everything in our power to ensure teaching and learning continue. We need to put strategies in place so that a strike will not negatively affect learners,” she said.
Even though a possible strike would include school principals and inspectors, she called on them to ensure teachers are at school so that teaching and learning continue.
Further, she also urged learners to inform their parents who in turn should report to the education directorate of such action by boycotting teachers so that steps are taken against them.
“Children should be vigilant because it’s their future. So they must report such cases so that we can really act on them,” she urged.
Although the voting process to decide whether to strike or not is expected to be completed on Friday, teachers in most regions including Khomas, Erongo, Hardap, Kunene and Kavango West, had already cast their votes last week with the remaining ones to vote this week before the national results are announced next week Monday.