Blow for govt teachers
. . . as ministry scraps salary increase for new qualifications
IN a move that is likely to set the government on a collision course with teachers’ associations, the Ministry of Education and Training has amended the 2002 Teaching Service Regulations to no longer obligate the ministry to make salary increments for teachers who obtain new qualifications.
Prior to the amendment, teachers in the government’s employ were entitled to an automatic salary increment after furthering their education.
However, addressing a press conference of Friday, Education and Training Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse said the amendment was effective from 17 June 2016.
“The amendment is effective June 17 and this means that serving teachers who acquire new qualifications after June 17 will be affected by this amendment,” Dr Phamotse said.
She said teachers would now be promoted on the basis of performance, available vacancies, availability of funds for such positions as well as ability to perform their duties.
“It must be noted that this amendment ought to have been made in 2009 during the Teacher Salary and Career Structure but due to different reasons, stopping payments to teachers already in the teaching service as per their new qualifications did not happen,” Dr Phamotse said.
“In 2009 it was shown that continued payments for new qualifications impacted negatively on the ministry’s ability to control its annual budget as teachers’ salaries account for 94 percent of the ministry’s budget.”
Dr Phamotse said this affected her ministry so much that it became difficult to pay telephone bills, train school boards and teachers as well as financially support education inspectors.
She said this resulted in the failure by education inspectors to visit schools to ensure education standards were upheld.
The minister also indicated the already dire situation had worsened over the years, with the government unable to repair schools damaged by storms during the rainy seasons.
“Even those teachers who acquired new qualifications could not be paid immediately due to lack of funding,” Dr Phamotse said.
She said the ministry was forced to shelve vacant positions, resulting in a single employee being forced to carry out three functions due to lack of funding.
“For instance, in the planning department we only have one civil servant and this is not good for us as the remaining six percent of the budget cannot cater for all the ministry’s expenses.”
Dr Phamotse said her ministry had no choice but to make the amendment after realising that paying for the new qualifications without taking into account experience, performance and availability of funds was inefficient.
She said it was also wrong that some teachers who had entered the service with a diploma qualification would be paid for their new qualification even though they continued teaching the same grade.
The minister also indicated she was alive to the fact that the amendment would cause a lot of controversy.
“In comparison to other countries in the region and based on our economy, Lesotho teachers get lucrative salaries,” she said.
Dr Phamotse also thanked development partners for sticking by her ministry through thick and thin.
In July this year teachers threatened crippling industrial action in a bid to force government to address their concerns, which included working conditions and low salaries.
They argued that some of them had been Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC)-holders, but after improving their qualifications to teaching diplomas and degrees, they were still earning M3 049. This, they said, was what they were being paid when they had COSC qualifications and those with diplomas now expected M7 000 a month in line with their new status.
Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) Secretary-General Thaabe Kuleile yesterday told the Sunday Express they did not approve of the amendment although they were part of consultations.
“We were part of the panel, but we agreed to disagree because as the union we are very clear and vocal that we are not for that amendment,” Mr Kuleile said.
“We were forced to agree to disagree because government had a larger representation on the panel.”
He said it would not be possible for the amendment to come into force because as far as they were concerned, parliament went for the winter break without discussing it.
“We know that because we lobbied some legislators who were ready to fight for us and until today, nothing has been said about this amendment which undermines the teachers’ efforts to improve themselves.
“If it was passed, then it is another thing and we will have to sit down as teachers unions to find a way forward.”
Mr Kuleile said the amendment undermined the country’s education system as teachers won’t be motivated to improve themselves.
“Failing to reward new qualifications means teachers will not find it necessary to improve their skills and this will subsequently affect the standard of our education. The negative impacts may not felt now but in the long run we will surely feel them.”
Mr Kuleile also said the teachers’ unions found it hard to believe the ministry’s claims that teachers gobbled 94 percent of the budget because it had refused to engage them in the budget formulation processes.
“If indeed this is true, why has the ministry flatly refused to engage us on the budget formulation process that affects us? We find it hard to believe what they are telling us because there is no evidence to back up their story,” he said.
“We have also asked the ministry to create a Teachers Bargaining Council which will discuss issues like this and the ministry does not want to involve us in these processes. Until they do that, we will always be at loggerheads with them on these issues.”