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Teachers threaten strike

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THOUSANDS of disgruntled teachers nationwide have threatened to sue the government or down tools if their grievances mainly over payment issues are not addressed within 14 days from the 23rd of March this year.

On Friday, the teachers braved the rains and marched in Maseru to hand over a petition to the Minister of Education and Training, Ntoi Rapapa.

The grievances include demands for payment of gratuities for performance-based contract, salary arrears, acting allowances and the full implementation of salary and career structure of 2009.

The teachers demanded  that Mr Rapapa tackles the problem of ghost workers and immediately expel the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Service Department (TSD), ’Maselloane Sehlabi, who they accuse of maladministration and stalling negotiations between the teachers and their employer.

Ms Sehlabi flatly refused to comment on the allegations levelled against her.

“I don’t have anything to say and by the way, the Minister was the one petitioned and not me,” Ms Sehlabi said.

Speaking to the Sunday Express yesterday, Tšepo Lethobane of the Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA) said they had exhausted all possible means including negotiations.

“We have negotiated before and we are done with the government. We want money and nothing else and we expect the minister’s response within 14 days, otherwise we shall go to courts of law or down tools,” Mr Lethobane said.

Part of the teachers’ petition states, “Our cries have been not been heard over the years and it seems this ministry does not value us at all”.

“This demonstration is a sign that our patience is gone and if the status quo does not change, we shall resort to other means which will negatively affect the learners and the nation at large.”

The same sentiments were echoed by the chairperson of the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Letsatsi Ntsibolane, who said all hope had dwindled that their grievances would be addressed.

“We have engaged the government and we have exhausted all avenues hence we have decided to petition the minister because nothing has changed,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

“The Ministry of Education has not done anything according to the set standards and regulations, nor is it adhering to any of the guidelines regarding the recruitment of teachers.”

He also accused the ministry failing to implement a clear performance appraisal system while teachers who have upgraded their qualifications were still being paid according to their initial qualifications.

Mr Rapapa promised to discuss the petition in parliament but said some of the issues needed to be treated with great caution.

“I have noted all your grievances and I have even invited some of your leaders to parliament so that they learn one or two things on budget presentations. Good governance is key and we shall deliberate on the issues raised within the legal framework. All the issues on the welfare of teachers shall be informed by the budget,” Mr Rapapa said.

He said the ministry was already working to get rid of ghost workers through measures that included the implementation of a biometric data system.

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