The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture says the Nigerian volunteer teachers who are in the country are not here to replace teachers that plan to initiate a nationwide strike on Thursday.
Several unemployed graduates feel aggrieved that government brought in Nigerian volunteers, while others feel government is breaching the law by bringing in foreign workerss to replace striking teachers, but the ministry has dismissed the rumours as unfounded.
This follows the online circulation of a leaked internal memo, dated September 30, signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Sanet Steenkamp, alerting education directors to the availability of volunteer teachers from Nigeria.
“Your office is once again informed of the availability of volunteer teachers from Nigeria provided by the Nigerian Technical Assistance Cooperation (TAC), as per the agreement between the government through the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Steenkamp’s memo states.
“Your office is urgently requested to indicate whether there is a need for the service of the teachers referred to above, especially in English, Mathematics and Science subjects at secondary level. Should there be a need kindly indicate the school, the subject and the grade to be taught.
“Also take note of the regional office’s obligations in terms of providing suitable accommodation (a bed and mattress, fridge, stove, kitchen table with four chairs, gas cylinder in the absence of electricity, medical aid and the payment for utilities (water and electricity),” it further reads.
The memo angered some unemployed graduates, who say they too can teach and invigilate and should rather be given the opportunity.
“It seems like our government does not care about its own people. You have graduates on the streets and you are bringing in Nigerians. Will that not cost them a lot of money? This government isn’t serious,” one said.
The Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) has threatened legal action should government attempt to replace striking teachers, sayingit is “unlawful”.
Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura says teachers are not classified as essential service providers, hence are not responsible for the health and safety of learners at schools.
The Labour Act stipulates that: ‘… an employer must not require any employee who is not participating in a strike… or whom the employer has not locked-out, to do the work of striking or locked out employees, unless the work is necessary to prevent any danger to a life, a person’s safety or health of any individual.’ It further says: “an employer may not hire any individual to perform the work of a striking or locked-out employee.’
The teachers are demanding an 8 percent salary increase, while government has offered 5 percent.
Steenkamp yesterday said the Nigerian volunteers are here as part of a bilateral agreement between the two countries dating back to October 25, 2007. She said there are currently 17 Nigerian volunteer teachers for English, mathematics, biology and physical sciences working in Hardap, Kunene, Omusati, Otjozondjupa and Kavango East regions. Their contracts come to an end in January 2017 and as a standard practice (within their contract cycle of two years) the ministry calls for expression of interest from schools interested in the services of a volunteer teacher, she said.
“This is so, because schools must provide accommodation for the volunteer teachers for the period they are in the country. Once the schools have expressed their interest for volunteers from Nigeria through their regional offices a list of the required volunteer teachers per school and subjects are submitted to the Nigerian Embassy,” she explained.The embassy then forwards the information to the TAC in Nigeria, which in turn invites expressions of interest from qualified teachers in that country.
The résumés of interested teachers in Nigeria are then forwarded to Namibia for the education ministry to do the selection based on qualifications and fields of specialisation – with a focus on the needs of the schools. Thus far, she said, no expressions of interest from the regions have been received yet.