New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Strike Cripples Rehoboth

Rehoboth — Learners in Rehoboth are concerned the ongoing illegal strike that has brought teaching to a halt across the country could adversely affect their results.

"We were busy with revision and now this! Our exams start next week. To them (teachers) it is a good thing but now it seems we will have to redo our grades next year as there will be no exams this year," complained one learner.

Hundreds of teachers in the Rehoboth Gebiet and Mariental in the Hardap Region yesterday joined their counterparts in Khomas out of solidarity and sent learners home.

Learners were sent home at 10h00, until further notice.

Rehoboth teachers met at a central point in town and marched to the Teachers Resource Centre close to Dr Lemmer High School, to express their grievances to circuit inspector Alfred Dax.

The gates to the centre were however locked with police guarding the premises.

According to the disgruntled teachers, their bargaining agency, the Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) "is dead".

"Nantu does not have any contact with the teachers and the ministry. We are separated from each other because of the reluctance of the ministry to communicate with us. We teachers are not going to school until we get positive answers," one teacher shouted.

The unhappy teachers did however admit the strike "is illegal - but peaceful".

"Even the police did not find anything wrong, they escorted us to our meeting place without any objection," one teacher said.

The teachers threatened to stop their monthly membership fee contribution to Nantu and the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN).

"We thought Nantu was our voice but we were proven wrong - Nantu is a cohort of government. Our channels are blocked. We want a union that is not affiliated to a political party," another teacher said.

Most teachers New Era spoke to want to know why Nantu's representatives in Rehoboth cannot keep them informed on the progress of the ongoing negotiations.

"They keep us in the dark. We will stay here until our demands are met," some teachers said in unison.

Many of the teachers informed this reporter that they suffer from "severe depression" because of their meagre salary.

"We also have our own children in schools. We can not afford a decent house or a meal, as our salary is divided between loan sharks, Letshego and the high personal income tax demand of 35 percent from government," said one of the teachers who requested anonymity.

Teachers said the last increase of 14 percent in 2009 was eroded by the inflation rate, leaving them with a meagre N$2 000 at the end of the day.

"From that amount we still have to buy our monthly groceries and pay water and electricity bills. We do not look for deductions but expect an increase. Our demands are now. They should give us what we want. It seems our cry is not acceptable to our government.

We are not the culprits. This is a direct action as there was no response from either government or Nantu," one teacher said.

Teachers also said they live in "impoverished conditions" in Rehoboth.

They said at some schools teachers share living space with learners and at some places stay in one-room houses "with the principal".

Some placards read: "We teachers deserve better", "We are treated as mushrooms", "We are hungry teachers and we have no union", "We are homeless please help."

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