15 October 2012

Namibia: Teachers to Protest Against Union Leaders

Windhoek — A nationwide strike could be on the cards if teachers in the Khomas Region succeed in mobilising fellow teachers countrywide to protest what they term "delaying tactics in the negotiation process on salary increments by their union's executive leadership".

Hundreds of unhappy teachers from schools around Windhoek led by Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) Khomas regional chairperson, Daniel Katjiuanjo, turned up in big numbers in a packed hall at Shifidi Secondary School on Friday to strategise on the way forward. Teachers are unhappy with the protracted negotiation process to increase their salaries by 14 percent since 2010.

They have threatened to take to the streets if their demands are not met by October 20, which is this coming Saturday.

Basilius Haingura, Nantu Secretary General who is at the centre of the negotiations did not attend the meeting, which the teachers say was deliberate. He was apparently attending another meeting in Opuwo.

"National leaders are untouchable. We are sitting here and we might be blaming government. Maybe it is the Nantu leaders who are delaying the process deliberately for their own agendas. They should be called to order," said the teachers. The Nantu representatives who attended the meeting said they were not part of the negotiating team.

Paavo Shapata, Nantu Khomas regional information and publicity secretary said the Khomas Region must spearhead the campaign. "Khomas teachers must give us a mandate so that we can inform other regions.

We need a national mandate to go on strike, not a regional one," Shapata said.

Teachers are demanding better wages, better housing and transport allowances.

"For how long are we going to produce permanent secretaries and directors and at the end of the day they are insulting us? Come December, we will be insulted by parents and government that we are not performing," one teacher said at the meeting.

Critics are afraid that if teachers go on a nationwide strike before the end of the year it will negatively affect the performance of learners.

"When the negotiations started there were no examinations. Therefore examinations should not be used as an excuse not to strike. If our leaders decide not to be part and parcel of this, we will go ahead. If the negotiations failed why did they not come and give us feedback. NBC and the Polytechnic succeeded, so why can we not? If they feel exams will be affected, then they must be extended," said John Khamuseb to the applause of fellow teachers.

He went on to say that the "time for negotiations is now over. The masses have decided to go on strike. We must get a court order and demand what belongs to us."

"We want to see tangible figures on our pay slips. We want better pensions. The GIPF [Government Institutions Pension Fund] scandal is still dragging on and we are getting peanuts on our pension. How many can afford a house in Windhoek? We do not know what Nantu is negotiating for so long. Nantu national leaders are keeping issues secret while they are negotiating on our behalf," fumed Norman Titus, Nantu branch chairperson.

Katjiuanjo said they need answers on why the negotiation process has been delayed for over two years. "Mr Haingura must come and speak to the teachers. I don't want to hear that we are instigating you.

We are talking a language of people taking years to negotiate. We need to take the national executive to task, especially the SG, only then will the message be clear.

Let us demonstrate so that the SG can take us seriously," Katjiuanjo insisted.

Teachers concluded that a formal letter be given to Haingura this coming Wednesday demanding feedback on the delays involved in the salary negotiations.

The teachers will meet again on Wednesday at Shifidi Secondary School from where they plan to march to the Nantu head office to hand over a petition to the union leadership.

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