14 November 2012

Namibia: Govt Vows to Punish Striking Teachers

THE teachers who were on an illegal strike and did not work for two weeks will not be paid for the time they were missing in action.

Education Permanent Secretary Alfred Ilukena yesterday told The Namibian that there was no deal between the government and the striking teachers on the payment of salaries for the period they were not at work, nor will disciplinary actions be dropped.

Suspended Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) Khomas regional chairperson Dankie Katjiuanjo said on Monday that the suspension of the strike was based on government "not applying the 'no work no pay policy' to the teachers who took part in the illegal strike", and that the government would "re-open the salary negotiation process for their voices to be heard".

Katjiuanjo also said that all legal pending cases against those who led the strike would be withdrawn.

Ilukena said that was news to him when he heard it on the radio yesterday.

"I haven't been consulted on that. These conditions were never communicated to us thus we don't know anything about it. It's automatic that in terms of the Public Service Act, if you stay away from school without leave, then it's considered leave without pay – you don't get paid. That is the normal practice and it will apply. If you were not in school, you expect to be paid for what?" Ilukena said.

The Director of Education for the Khomas Education Directorate, Thea Seefeldt, last week sent a written request to the principals of all State schools and hostels to provide her office with an updated report on the "absenteeism of staff members".

"Information is needed on the absenteeism of unified staff (school secretaries, cleaners, hostel staff) who absented themselves without permission to join their colleagues in the illegal strike action. It is required from you as head of the institution to indicate what disciplinary actions should be applied to these staff members with regards to their unprofessional conduct," Seefeldt stated.

Meanwhile, the case against Katjiuanjo and those who led the strike was heard in court yesterday and has been postponed to December 6.

Katjiuanjo backed out of the strike after a reported secret meeting with Swapo Member of Parliament Elifas Dingara over the weekend, where he was asked to declare his loyalty to the party and told that the strike was "compromising the interests of the party".

Katjiuanjo's U-turn has been met with resistance and suspicion from some teachers and committee members who yesterday still gathered at the Khomasdal Stadium and vowed to continue striking until their demands were met. About 150 teachers showed up at the stadium yesterday.

The group said the idea of suspending the strike never received approval from the rest of the striking Khomas teachers.

The teachers who remain on strike said they suspected Katjiuanjo might have been "promised something" to suspend the strike.

"We cannot allow ourselves to be sold out to the benefit of a few individuals. It is time for teachers attending school to leave question papers and continuous assessment marks with principals to join the strike. We must withhold our skills and knowledge until we are rewarded," said Mika Ndadi, a member of the striking teachers' steering committee.

A visit to some schools in Windhoek yesterday revealed that many pupils and teachers had returned and that the year-end examinations were in full swing.

In addition to a 40% salary increase, the teachers are demanding a tax-free 13th cheque and tax-free housing and transport allowances.

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