Windhoek – The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has finally broken its silence on alleged derogatory statements made by its minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa that saw two teacher unions expressing views that they have lost confidence in her leadership and that she must step down from office.
The Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) and the Teachers Union of Namibia called for her stepping down after Nantu and government signed a new agreement last month to stop a teachers’ strike over an 8 percent salary increment demand.
The unions accused the minister of having threatened and intimidated teachers during the period leading to the strike, which took place over a period of two days that saw government suspending classes on those days.
Hanse-Himarwa had warned all teachers that there are consequences attached to those in favour of a strike, saying the “no work no pay policy will apply”. Surprisingly, President Hage Geingob who intervened and resolved the teachers’ demands for a salary increment said the ‘no work no pay policy’ would not apply to teachers who participated in the two-day nationwide strike.
TUN vice-president Ndjizuvee Haakuria had said the union wants to see the minister of education shown the door as teachers have lost confidence in her, while the Nantu leadership called on President Geingob to fire Hanse-Himarwa, claiming she was not fit for office.
Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura said the minister has a “terrible attitude”, which is the main reason teachers have lost faith in her, while the TUN urged the minister not to personalise the teachers’ strike issue by attacking the Nantu secretary general Haingura.
On Friday a statement issued by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Sanet Steenkamp, said the ministry reiterated that all official statements made by the minister were consistent with the position of government in terms of the salary negotiations between the government negotiating team and Nantu.
“While we value honest, analytical and constructive criticism that would redirect our efforts, we denounce the insulting slurs and attacks on the person of the minister. It has not been found on record that the minister threatened the teachers with action after the strike. In all our official statements made, it is clear that the minister had the interest of teachers and learners at heart,” she defended.
She went on to say that information provided through statements made by the minister were to ensure that teachers “who are our direct and treasured” stakeholders were well informed and engaged.
She added that the minister is well aware of the rights of workers in the country and can never fight against the right of teachers to have a fair and just compensation, in light of the minister having served on the National Teachers Council of Nantu.
Steenkamp said that during Hanse-Himarwa’s regional visits she emphasized that teachers work in challenging environments and that she would ensure that the dignity of teachers is fully restored.
“To allege and insist that the minister undermines and insults the teachers is in strong contrast with the genuine efforts of the minister since she took office one year and nine months ago,” the PS maintained.
According to her, the ministry has established strong relations with stakeholders including unions, and as such, divergent views and perceptions should not create a rift among the education fraternity, but should rather strengthen their relations.