Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa yesterday said government is working towards finding a solution regarding the teachers’ strike before the weekend ends – in time for Monday’s resumption of classes countrywide.
She also said nearly 10 000 teachers have opted against going on strike and government might make use of such teachers to ensure teaching continues in the interim.
With classes suspended yesterday and today, Hanse-Himarwa announced teaching would resume on Monday, but did not provide details of what would have changed by then.
Speaking to New Era’s Anwar Thomas yesterday in Hardap Region, where she witnessed the handover of a computer lab for Guibeb Primary School and a science lab for Daweb Combined School, Hanse-Himarwa was upbeat about resolving the strike.
Government was dealt a blow by the High Court decision on Wednesday evening that its application to interdict the teachers’ union, Nantu, from striking had no basis in law.
It was after that ruling, delivered at 18h45 on Wednesday, that Hanse-Himarwa issued a directive that classes were suspended for Thursday and Friday.
Examinations for Grades 10 and 12 were also suspended for the same two days – a decision that also affected private schools that are not party to the strike.
This was done so that learners in private schools do not share exam papers with their counterparts from public schools.
The minister yesterday told New Era that after the court ruling, she, President Hage Geingob and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila engaged in a lengthy meeting at State House with a view to resolve the situation. The meeting only ended at two o’clock in the morning, she revealed.
It is perhaps how that meeting went that shot the minister’s confidence high that a solution is in the pipeline to end the costly impasse.
She reiterated government’s position that it does not have resources to meet the teachers’ eight percent increment and that government was only prepared to effect an increase of five percent.
“We understand their plight and wish we could even increase their salaries by 10 percent,” she said.
“My focus since I became minister has been on infrastructure development such as teachers’ houses,” she said.
“I am confident we’ll have a breakthrough before the weekend ends. People should calm down, we are a responsible government. There would be teaching in Namibia come Monday,” the former Hardap regional governor told this publication.
She expressed shock at what she called the “negativity” of Nantu, and even suggested the union was pushed by third forces.
“I’m disappointed by their negativity. They must not be used by dark forces,” she urged.
Meanwhile, hordes of teachers yesterday marched in the streets countrywide as the strike kicked off.
They vowed not to return to classrooms until their increment is effected at eight percent.
Learners at most schools showed up at school but no teaching took place, as teachers were a no-show, reports Nuusita Ashipala.
“Learners were seen returning home just after eight,” she said.
The strike was described as peaceful, and around 2 000 teachers in the region were expected to partake in the strike.
Close to 300 teachers gathered at the ELCIN church in Omuthiya, where they were urged by local Nantu chairperson Tomas Niilongo to conduct themselves peacefully.
“They marched through the town’s main road leading to Penda Ya Ndakolo Street, passing by Governor Henock Kankoshi’s office in an effort to vent and air their plight,” New Era’s Obrein Simasiku reports.
John Muyamba reports that learners at Rundu, including those writing Grade 10 and 12 exams, showed up at school but had to return home, as there were no teachers.
Teachers from various circuits gathered at the local Nantu office as early as 06h00 before embarking on a march at 09h00 to the Rundu sports stadium, where they stopped for a briefing on the strike instructions and picketing points.
“As from tomorrow you must be on your way to your picketing places and as from Monday report at your picketing points until the strike ends,” said Lucas Mbangu, the Nantu chairperson for Kavango East Region.
Teachers from all seven circuits in the //Karas Region came together at various meeting points in their respective circuits to join the countrywide strike, reports Matheus Hamutenya.
At Keetmanshoop, teachers from the Kalahari circuit gathered at the Nantu offices as early as 07h00 and then marched to the Tseiblaagte bridge, where they chanted songs and danced for a while, before dispersing by 09h00.
With about 70 percent of teachers from the Kalahari circuit turning up, most schools at Keetmanshoop and the region at large turned away learners and this was evident as learners in their school uniform could be seen roaming around town, while a group of learners were seen sharing a cigarette just outside their schoolyard, on their way home.
It was however business as usual at Keetmanshoop Primary School, with both teachers and learners turning up for classes. The principal Pieter Zulch explained that this was because they had gotten the directives to cancel classes only at 09h00 yesterday.
He however said the parents have now been notified and there will be no classes today at the school.
Some learners at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund said they had no option but to join their teachers, in solidarity, if government does not heed the call for an eight percent increment.
Learners at Duinesig Combined School fear there would be no consensus reached in time for resumption of classes on Monday.
“We will consult with our parents so that all of us join our teachers – maybe then government will listen,” one of the learners told New Era’s Eveline de Klerk.
They said they were immediately sent back home yesterday morning by their teachers due to the strike.
A group of boys were seen playing football in the streets while dressed in their school uniform.
One of the boys, Geraldo Cloete, said there was no point going home because his mother only returns home at 13h00 and he would therefore kill time by playing football.
Maria Shilunga, whose son is currently writing Grade 12 examinations, said she is very worried about her son’s future.
“These results are very important for my son as he applied to study in South Africa. Currently we are in the dark as to how we will approach the situation and if government will give in to the demands of teachers,” she said.