Windhoek — The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) has urged teachers striking over pay and other conditions of service to return to school for the sake of the learners.
Opposition parties however say government must bring working conditions and remuneration for Namibian workers on par with other middle-income countries comparable with Namibia, to curtail widespread labour strikes.
Since Monday close to 1 000 teachers in the Khomas Region started an indefinite strike over pay and conditions of service in a move that was quickly replicated at schools across the country.
Teachers are frustrated and impatient with the slow process of wage negotiations and the anticipated increase and grading system that have been dragging on since October last year.
They are demanding a 20 percent salary increment. They also want their housing allowances to be increased to a market-related rate of at least N$2 000 per month, since they say an ordinary teacher cannot afford rental accommodation, let alone houses in Windhoek that are priced way above their qualifying ceiling. But the student organisation Nanso yesterday appealed to the striking teachers to go back to work.
Owen Matengu, Nanso Secretary for Information and Publicity said the strike is affecting mainly the learners, since the Grade 10 exam papers are currently not being marked and this may delay the release of the Grade 10 and Grade 12 results this year. The grades 1 to 9 learners are supposed to be sitting for their end-of-year final examinations in two weeks' time.
"We as students do sympathise with the teachers and we know they are underpaid and work under harsh conditions, but please return to work for the sake of the Namibian child," he said.
Meanwhile, Swanu of Namibia says it has been following the widespread labour strikes as they have been unfolding over the past months with great concern. "We therefore feel sympathy for the suffering masses and learners who could be affected by the strikes," the party said yesterday. Swanu says the situation has been aggravated to the current point due to the numerous socio-economic disparities the "proletariat and broad mass of workers have faced since independence".
The party accused trade unions affiliated to the ruling Swapo Party of "selling out the interest of the workers."
Such arrangement, the party noted, is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Namibian Constitution and Article 95(c) - Promotion of the Welfare of the People, which specifically calls for "active encouragement of the formation of independent trade unions to protect workers' rights and interests, and to promote sound labour relations and fair employment practices."
"Notwithstanding the fact that the world economy has plummeted, we do not see the rationale for not meeting the basic needs of the working class in Namibia," the party indicated.
Considering the precarious situation, Swanu has requested government to work towards reaching an amicable solution with members "of the noble profession [of teaching] instead of issuing threats or inviting more confrontation".
"For Namibia to be able to close the disparities, we exhort government to do away with the capitalistic exploitative system that works against the interests of our people," reads the Swanu statement issued yesterday. The party says the current strikes, both in Namibia and South Africa, could be avoided by introducing a socialist system that looks at the interests of workers.