ALLOW me a space in your highly esteemed newspaper to address a number of challenges raised by teachers as observed through social media platforms such as on the Facebook and WhatsApp groups for Classical Teachers of Namibia. The union discussed and forwarded these to the office of the Prime Minister. Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, for consideration over the past years. The Right Honourable PM has chosen not to respond to these requests however, she deliberated and clarified her stance on the matter through a programme called ‘Prime Minister’s Question Time’. Firstly, I would like to congratulate the government for their commitment towards social upgrade and prosperity for all through Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP). Recently a mutual agreement was concluded to adjust civil servants’ salaries after a marathon dispute. Interestingly this dispute between government and NANTU (the Union) over salary negotiations ended in a court challenge. Although we appreciate the government’s plight towards social welfare and improvement of citizens’ lives through established policies and programmes; the teachers through Office of the Prime Minister has expressed concern over unfair treatment and implores the Ministry of Education to address the following burning issues:
1. INTRODUCTION OF GRADE A GRADE 7 JOB CATEGORY IN EDUCATION JOB EVALUATION AND GRADING SYSTEM AS TASKED BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER.
The Right Honourable PM Dr Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila spoke on the NBC current affairs programme called, ‘The Prime Minister Question Time’ recently. She has vehemently reiterated her objection to the idea of introducing a grade 7 category in education despite the fact that this issue has been part of the agenda of NANTU during their consultative meetings they carried out countrywide at various schools before meeting the government negotiations team with recognised trade unions. In as much as we want fair remuneration and competitive advantage towards quality delivery of educational goals and services rendered, we feel that there is a huge gap created between the HoD promotional posts grade 8 job category and teachers in job category grade 8. On the contrary the Right Honourable PM has defended the status quo and argued that the category should remain as such, because the Jobs Evaluation and Grading [JEG] system is applicable across the board. Our sentiment over the matter is actually to level the playing field and consider the performance of teachers and their slim chances of promotion. The new grade will be an incentive for teachers to study and work hard. Some teachers in grade 8 have advanced themselves to obtain their honours and master degree qualifications. Hence, there is a need to reward them with an upgrade into a new created grade 7 job category. Other than that, it will be appropriate to move teachers in job category grade 9 to 8.
Moreover, the Office of the Prime Minister has failed to apply logic in JEG system one cannot be graded from grade 8 to grade 6 skipping grade 7. This is not only affecting the welfare of teachers but the service delivered to the public as such. It is discouraging to have qualified teachers in our education system that are either underpaid or rewarded extrinsically. The Public Service cannot attract able teachers to the government schools education system in as much as we are unfairly treating the teachers against the common wealth. There are ordinary teachers in this country with Master’s degrees, and more, even with various honours completely related to what it takes to better the education of Namibia, however the individuals are not given the specific respect they deserve, financially or socially. It must be known honourable PM that the deliberate gab between the grade 6 and grade 8 in the salary grading for Public Service has no background to stand on as all the teachers are involved in implementation of education policies and evaluation.
Every teacher does the School Self Evaluation SSE. The management does not draft the Plan of Action for Academic Improvement (PAAI) alone, but all the teaching staff members of the particular school. What this means, honourable PM is that the criteria to become a HOD is not very clear to speak for the deliberate gap between grade six and eight. Being HOD does not guarantee the effectiveness of our education system. In most cases, either the Principal or the HODs are less qualified than the teachers under their supervision. Management members do not give enough support towards newly appointed better-qualified teachers. Today we are teaching for development, yesterday we were teaching to liberate ourselves from apartheid. A Head of Department is a contracted promotional post. We remain ineffective in as much as HODs keep their posts with 1978 qualifications. Therefore there is a need to improve their qualifications with the latest pedagogical skills. Honourable PM we are not against the issue of qualifications vs teaching experiences but the point is that experience can be obtained with upgraded qualifications as education is developing faster than we anticipate. In short, narrow the gap between grade 6 and 8, by creating grade seven-job category with its criteria outlining more and specifically motivating hardworking teachers.
2. TAX FREE BONUSES
Again, teachers have expressed concern over taxed bonus. Why should the bonuses be taxed? We feel that there are alternative ways and means to lift the burden of over taxation. On every commodity, we pay tax and again income tax. Why not relieve civil servants from over taxation? Perhaps this issue needs urgent review, to be revisited and attention of relevant laws governing the treasury in the finance ministry.
3. SUBSIDIES PAYMENTS
Currently the financial service provider and the contractor agree on the subsidies towards a mortgage. The employer pays the subsidies directly to the bank instead of payment into to the employee’s account. Most banks have criteria only to render assistance to those who want to build houses in towns. When will government financially assist civil servants who located plots elsewhere and not necessarily in towns? It is not easy for someone to secure serviced plots, as most towns are already struggling with financial challenges to service land for house construction. To make it worse, the Mass Housing Project under the auspices of the Namibia Housing Enterprise came to a complete halt this year, most property developers are charging exorbitantly.
In addition to that, qualifying for a subsidy depends on how much you earn, therefore to qualify for higher bond is directly proportional to your salary income. With the current demand in construction of houses, most Real Estate Agents or property developers are charging exorbitant prices. Most civil servants cannot afford to buy houses. What then is the way forward to assist employees in that regard?
In conclusion, epistemological access in education can only be realised when the goals of the Ministry of Education like Access, Equity, Quality and Democracy are used for effective delivery of quality education.
By Concerned Teachers
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015