7 November 2012

Namibia: Teachers Urge Civil Servants to Join Strike

AS the illegal teachers’ strike entered its seventh day yesterday, the organisers called on other civil servants to join them.

Striking teachers in Windhoek, joined by some nurses, were again addressed by Evilastus Kaaronda, who was fired last week as secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW).

Kaaronda advised the strikers to change their strategy and mobilise the entire public service to join the strike.

The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa, at a media conference yesterday accused the strike teachers of “reckless conduct”, and and call on them to return to classes.

He warned civil servants and teachers against “desperate individuals who claim to be union representatives but who are hell bent on sowing discord in the public service”.

The only union that has declared support for the striking teachers is the Teachers Union of Namibia. The rival Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) has distanced itself from the strike.

“We need to draw in the parents of the children you are teaching and many other abused, underpaid and undervalued employees from government to make our group bigger. There are employees from some ministries who are ready to join us, but they need us to extend our hand to them. We must divide ourselves and even go from house to house to talk to the parents and tell them our concerns,” Kaaronda told the group yesterday.

The group has embarked on an SMS mobilising campaign, calling all civil servants to join in the strike.

“The time has come for government to hear us out. We need to use whatever resources we have to ensure our group grows. If each of you can bring two or more people to join the strike every day, our group will grow,” Kaaronda said.

The suspended Nantu Khomas regional chairperson, Dankie Katjiuanjo, told the group to be committed to the strike, adding that those teachers who were staying away were “weakening our cause”.

“We are changing the strategy of the strike. It will no longer just be teachers, but all the public servants. Let us be committed,” he told the crowd.

The teachers are demanding a 40% salary increase and have said they will not go back to work unless they are satisfied with the outcome of the wage negotiations between government and Nantu. The negotiations are expected to be concluded by tomorrow.

The striking teachers yesterday stopped a Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) television crew from filming their meeting, accusing the broadcaster of misrepresentation and pushing the government agenda.

They also accused the Minister of Education, Abraham Iyambo, who is accompanying President Hifikepunye Pohamba on a visit to South Africa, of not being “serious” for leaving the country during the strike.

The group’s planned march to the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday was stopped by the Police, as they did not have permission to do so.

The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) yesterday announced that it will lead a peaceful demonstration with students in the Khomas Region to the Office of the Prime Minister tomorrow to hand over a petition “to air our concerns as student leaders and learner representatives”.

Nanso, which has called on the teachers to return to school, said it fully supports the teachers in their demand for a better salary. “We are fully aware of the teachers’ living conditions and therefore call on the Namibian government to give what the teachers are requesting. They deserve it,” the students’ organisation said.

The Namibian visited some primary schools in the capital yesterday, where Grade 7s were set to start writing their Standardised Tests. Not all Grade 7 pupils showed up for the test at the A.I. Steenkamp Primary School in Katutura or the M.H Greeff Primary School in Khomasdal, as some still believe that the strike means no school.

At the Orban Primary School, all Grade 7 children showed up. All Grade 7 teachers at Orban have been at the school throughout the strike.

“We were doing revision and we encouraged all Grade 7 learners to come to school to write their examinations,” said Theresa Damases, a Grade 7 teacher.

Levanna Geingos and Shaquille Gaomab were two of the pupils who wrote their examinations. “I want to pass and without school and proper education you go nowhere,” said Gaomab. Both also said that they were motivated by their teachers to attend school and write the examinations.

At the Michelle McLean Primary School, only 53 Grade 7 pupils showed up for the examination and at Rocky Crest Primary only 28 were present.

Additional reporting by Tanja Bause

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