After Namibia’s teachers voted by 95.1 percent in favour of strike action, the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) has announced that rules regulating the planned strike would be agreed to by tomorrow.
Teachers countrywide voted overwhelmingly to strike for an 8 percent salary increment and improvements to their condition of service, Nantu said yesterday.
Nantu president Simeon Kavila said the voting process had shown that the overwhelming majority were in favour of a walkout, with only a 4.7 percent voting against the strike. Of the 29 118 eligible voters about 20 473 teachers cast their votes: 19 473 voted for and only 958 voted against the strike. About 42 ballots were spoiled.
Kavila said the teachers’ position on the demand for an 8 percent increment remains unchanged and Nantu would engage government on Wednesday to iron out the strike rules. Thereafter, a date for the nationwide strike by teaches will be announced.
The result raises the threat of a huge disruption to schools, particularly as a strike in the last term of the year is likely to affect Grade 10 and 12 learners who are preparing for important end-of-year exams.
Kavila said Nantu understands parents’ and learners’ concerns about the upcoming exams.
“We would like the government to meet our demand. We are willing to [return to] work after our demands are met. We’ve always remained patriotic and hardworking,” he said.
He further said that teachers exercised their democratic right in voting for strike action and hence the move should not be politicised.
“Their (politicians’) children are in private schools. That’s why they‘re acting recklessly for these children [in public schools] to suffer. Teachers were not been misled. No one is behind the teachers. They applied their minds and the [union] leadership is acting on the mandate of teachers. This is how they feel about their conditions of service,” Kavila remarked.
Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura warned that teachers would refrain from marking final exam papers and that “everything would come to a standstill”.
As for those who voted against the strike, Nantu deputy president Josef Dinyando said they would not be intimidated to strike, as they democratically exercised their right not to.
Kavila blamed the government negotiating team, saying they did not conduct the negotiations in good faith, taking into account the implications of an unresolved dispute on the education system and learners.
“Nantu expected government to engage through established mechanisms and through their team, instead of everyone becoming a negotiator,” he remarked.
Nantu’s leadership also feels the utterances by Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa to the effect that teachers were misled and unpatriotic, is unbecoming. They said it is an insult to the intelligence of the country’s educators.
“The minister compared our salaries to teachers in Botswana and South Africa, forgetting that there are different contextual factors. The statements have revealed that the minister failed to do proper research on the issues.
“Nantu is of the opinion that the minister was supposed to play a liaison role between the union and government in an attempt to reach consensus on the matter. However, she opted to become a spokesperson of the government by threatening teachers,” Kavila stated.
Nantu claimed that teachers have no confidence in the education minister, saying her actions do not guarantee a good future working relationship with teachers and the union, in particular. Nantu also accused government of intimidating teachers by going to schools to ask who wants to mark final examination papers.
“Our demand is [for the strike] not to be politicised. It’s about bread and butter issues. We’re teachers of this country and our actions are not politically motivated. There is intimidation of our members on the ground and we condemn this practice. We see it as intimidation… and it must be stopped without further delay,” Kavila warned.
He further said government should not underestimate the intelligence of teachers by threatening them with the “no work, no pay” policy.
Section 76 of the Labour Act stipulates though that: “By taking part in a strike or a lockout in compliance with this chapter (7), a person is not in delict or breach of contract, but an employer is not obliged to remunerate an employee for services that the employee does not render during a strike or lockout…”
Minister Hanse-Himarwa could not respond to a request for comment yesterday, as she was in a meeting at the time of writing.