TEACHERS’ unions have sent a petition to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili demanding an improvement in teachers’ salaries and conditions of service.
The unions, consisting of the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers’ Trade Union (LTTU) and Lesotho School Principals’ Association (LESPA), on Friday submitted a list of their grievances to Acting Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Kimetso Mathaba after marching from the Race Course to the Moshoeshoe I monument in Maseru.
The petition was read out by LESPA Public Relations Officer Teboho Mokhomo who said they were left with no choice but to engage Dr Mosisili after several “futile and fruitless” meetings with officials from the Ministry of Education and Training.
He said during the tenure of former Education and Training minister Dr Mahali Phamotse, the ministry did not bother to consult the unions on issues that affected teachers, adding this had not changed under the current minister Motlalentoa Letšosa.
Dr Phamotse was fired during a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month and replaced by Mr Letšosa who was formerly Law, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs minister.
“We had a meeting with him (Mr Letšosa) on 16 November 2016 where he made empty promises that he would seriously consider our grievances. The minister said he would first assess the situation since he is new in the ministry,” Mr Mokhomo said.
“This came after several meetings and failed negotiations with the office of the former minister Dr Mahali Phamotse on the same issues.”
He said their grievances were not being incorporated by the ministry to the detriment of teachers and principals.
“For instance, the ministry through circular no. 8 of 2016 has now come-up with the so-called exit strategy for principals who were engaged on performance contracts (PC) without first consulting and engaging the concerned principals including the teacher formations in this unprecedented and unprincipled move,” said Mr Mokhomo, adding it resulted in the principals losing their jobs to substitute teachers.
“One of the most painful and barbaric provisions of this circular is that the school boards are instructed to release all substitute teachers who replaced the principals on PCs.”
He said the principals without contracts were “released with impunity” despite some of them having served for five years and provisions of their contract stipulating that if their performance was satisfactory their contracts would be renewed.
“We therefore believe that this is clearly in contravention of the Education Act of 2010, where rules of natural justice are clearly articulated and enshrined as part and parcel of our law in our education system and where the teaching service commission is the only body bestowed with all the powers to appoint and remove from the service any teacher including the principals without any influence of any sort whatsoever.”
Mr Mokhomo said the ministry was also failing to pay gratuity to principals upon the expiration of their PC “particularly those under the age of 55 years who were teachers before engaging in the PC”.
He also pointed to the ministry’s “unilateral” amending of the Teaching Service Regulations of 2002, specifically Regulation Six which orders for stoppage in payment of teachers based on their academic qualifications.
“We believe that as stakeholders and particularly teacher formations, the ministry ought to have invited us into that crucial and important exercise due to a clear misconstruction and misinterpretation of the relevant regulation.”
Mr Mokhomo also took issue with the placement of teachers into the teaching service in terms of the ministry’s external Circular Notice No.12 of 2015 and the draft amendment of the Education Act of 2010.
“Specifically, this takes away all the powers as are correctly bestowed into the Teaching Service Commission through recommendation by the school boards, and as such tantamount to a breach of the current Education Act of 2010,” he said.
“We want government to review rationalization of school fees which were last reviewed in 2012 despite the fact that prices have gone up and book rental deposits made by schools to the central account should be refunded to schools as agreed initially by the ministry and the schools.”
Mr Mokhomo further stated that payment of responsibility allowances for principals with high qualifications particularly in primary schools should be taken into consideration.
Mr his part, Mr Mathaba promised to present the petition to Dr Mosisili adding that he hoped the premier would give his feedback “as soon as possible”.