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Global teachers’ union slams govt

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

A GLOBAL teachers’ union, Education International, has slammed the Thomas Thabane administration for the alleged “violation of Lesotho teachers’ rights”.

The union further called on the government to reverse the dismissal of Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) chairperson Letsatsi Ntsibolane who was fired on 30 January 2019 for allegedly neglecting his teaching duties last November and inciting teachers to go on illegal strike.

The union’s allegations are contained in a letter that Education International’s general secretary, David Edwards, recently wrote to Prime Minister Thabane.

The letter was written at a time when three teachers unions, namely, LAT, Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho School Principals Association (LeSPA) are mobilising their members to go on what could be a crippling strike to press the government to award them salary increments and improve their working conditions.

Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, Education International is a global federation of teachers’ trade unions consisting of 401-member organisations in 172 countries including Lesotho. It represents over 30 million education personnel from pre-school to university.

In his recent letter to Dr Thabane, Education International’s general secretary, David Edwards, accused the government of intimidation tactics to scare off teachers’ unions from engaging in industrial action to fight for their rights in line with national and international labour laws.

“We call on your administration to respect the trade union rights of Lesotho teachers, as guaranteed by national and international labour laws,” Mr Edwards states in his letter.

“Your government has indeed breached the rights to freedom of association and to collective bargaining of Lesotho teacher unions on several occasions in the past months.

“These violations of union rights include…the procedurally incorrect disciplinary measures against trade union leaders for taking part in a lawful industrial action, including the unfair dismissal of Mr Letsatsi Ntsibolane, the LAT Chairperson.

“We furthermore urge the Minister of Education and Training (Ntoi Rapapa) to withdraw the letter of dismissal of Mr Letsatsi Ntsibolane, and to meet without further delays the (legitimate) demands of teachers for the betterment of their working conditions and for salaries that are commensurate with their professional qualifications.”

Mr Edwards has also accused the government of interfering with teacher unions’ activities and ordering the police to prevent the unions from holding meetings.

“Education International therefore urges your (Dr Thabane’s) government to abide by its national and international obligations to respect the right to freedom of association and to collective bargaining by Lesotho teachers as guaranteed by the Lesotho Labour Code and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

“We are already in communication with the ILO regarding the situation in Lesotho and we reserve the right to inform them of any new developments that may breach international labour standards. We are considering filing a complaint with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association,” Mr Edwards further states.

However, in a recent interview with the Sunday Express, the Prime Minister’s Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala said Dr Thabane had not received Education International’s letter.

Mr Thakalekoala however, dismissed the allegations that the government was violating teachers’ rights.

Instead, he said, the government has found the teachers grievances legitimate and intended to give them the serious attention they deserved.

“It is not true that government is violating the rights of the teachers. In fact, government finds the teachers’ grievances to be very genuine and deserving of its utmost attention. A ministerial subcommittee has been appointed to address those issues with the seriousness they deserve,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

He said the government, in its entirety, could not be held responsible for Mr Ntsibolane’s dismissal, adding this was an issue that the latter had to resolve with his immediate, the Ministry of Education.

Professor Rapapa declined to talk to the Sunday Express, saying that he was bust as he was attending a series of meetings over the weekend.

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