Education wage bill unsustainable

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The wage bill at the education ministry has reached unsustainable levels and the ministry is seized with restructuring measures to assess its staffing needs. For this reason, the ministry has not released the bulletin of teaching vacancies for 2018, Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said yesterday.

The ministry is assessing which positions could do without being filled, doing head counts to root out so-called ‘ghost teachers’ – teachers who have resigned or retired, and non-teaching personnel who are receiving salaries as active teachers. The ministry is also assessing which schools could be merged by taking schools with fewer pupils to schools that have capacity to handle more learners.

The minister held a press conference following threats by the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) to stage a countrywide protest to force the ministry to release the list of teaching vacancies for 2018. TUN has accused the ministry of deliberately delaying the publication of the bulletin.

“This is absolutely irrational, irresponsible and misplaced communication by those making such public pronouncements without facts. We do not understand what they are trying to achieve by making such fallacious statements,” she said.

Traditionally, the ministry always released the list not later than July of each year, however, this year the list has not be released.

She anticipated that the consolidation process should be completed by the end of this month.
Hanse-Himarwa explained that once staffing needs are consolidated and endorsed by the executive, the ministry will make up the vacancy bulletin that will be submitted to the Secretary of Cabinet for ratification and subsequently publication.

The ministry’s current spending on remuneration stands at 85 percent of the total budget, leaving it with very little on capital spending, which also has a significant bearing on teaching and learning.

The ministry has 45 183 personnel, of which 41 735 positions are filled and 28 688 of them are teaching staff.
“It is public knowledge by now that our wage bill has been increasing annually and it has reached levels that are unsustainable from an economic perspective. To arrest this situation and in our quest of quality inclusive education, we have embarked on many key initiatives,” she said.

These initiatives include the non-filling of management positions at schools on permanent basis except for principals, while the vacant posts for head of departments are not being filled, they are only on acting basis.
She said to trim the size of the ministry’s staff complement and contain the growing wage bill, the ministry engaged its regional offices to provide regional profiles on the staffing norms, saying this was received from regions in July 2017.

“These findings compelled us through our executive to ensure that we make efforts to reduce the initial staffing needs as advanced by our regional offices and in this regard, our directorates in the regions were then directed to revisit their needs by critically and analytically assessing their workforce for staffing as per the post provisional norms and to resubmit their prioritised vacancy lists,” she noted.

She said only after the correct staffing norms have been applied will the ministry proceed to do the initial costing of the provisional posts.

The regional directorates were all expected to submit their final staffing needs by yesterday.

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