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Principals fume over contracts

 

Education Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse
Education Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse

Limpho Sello

School principals want the government to abide by conditions of performance-based contracts they signed five years ago.

The aggrieved Lesotho School Principals Association (LEPSA) members on Wednesday held a press conference in Maseru where they accused the government of abandoning the contracts and leaving them in the lurch.

According to the principals, government was expected to contribute an equivalent of 25 percent of their gross salaries every month over five years and pay out the money as a lumpsum at the end of that time.

LEPSA Public Relations Officer, Teboho Mokhomo, said the contracts were renewable and the result of the 2010 Education Act which came into force in 2011. He added the Ministry of Education and Training suspended the contract system in 2013 without consulting the concerned principals.

“These contracts were suspended in 2013 without a clear explanation. We were only told they had some gaps which needed to be addressed and the ministry was still looking into them,” Mr Mokhomo said.

“There was also the issue of principals who had acted for a very long time but were not being paid for it; they were only being paid as teachers.”

Mr Mokhomo said they met Education and Training Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse to discuss the matter but there was no resolution to the issue.

“The minister admitted to us in that meeting that there was a problem with the contracts. She also admitted that government was not saving the 25 percent as required by the Education Act of 2010.

“The minister further said it was not possible for the teachers to get their gratuity from the performance contracts and on the other hand, get government to pay for their terminal benefits. But we are wondering why this was not communicated to us on time and why we shouldn’t believe that this is a calculated mistake,” Mr Mokhomo said.

Those who signed the performance-based contracts in November 2011were expecting to reap the benefits in November 2016 but would not realise this windfall, he added.

“We were very disappointed to hear that we will not be getting the benefits as we had expected all along,” he said.

LESPA President Tsietsi Tshabalala added: “We had committed ourselves financially and to be told at the last minute that we won’t get the money is not sitting very well with us.

“We have written several letters to the minister requesting a meeting so that we can address these issues but she has been avoiding us.

“We then decided to find other ways of communicating our grievances to the public because we have been trying to handle this issue like adults but the honourable minister is pushing us to the edge by not wanting to meet with us.

“If she continues to treat us this way, we will take the matter further, including going to court.

“A contract is a binding document and if you disobey its terms and conditions, that is called a breach.”

Contacted for comment, Dr Phamotse admitted there was a problem with the contracts.

“We are amending the Education Act 2010 by removing gaps such as performance contracts and the issue of teachers being hired without appraisals,” Dr Phamotse said.

“I spoke to the principals about this issue, and I am surprised when they say I don’t want to meet with them because we met during the amendment of this Act and now we are in the final stage of the changes.

“The principals are going to get their monies but only those who were not teachers before because they don’t have pensions. Those who were teachers before applying to be principals won’t be getting their gratuity because they already have one.

“I agree we have to meet with the principals to resolve the issue and move forward. I’m ready to meet with them to hear what they have to say.  Before the end of next week, we would have met because I need this issue resolved once and for all,” Dr Phamotse said.

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