18 October 2017

Namibia: Student Teachers March for Jobs

Windhoek — More than 150 University of Namibia (Unam) Khomasdal campus student teachers protest-marched in Windhoek yesterday to demand that the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture releases the bulletin of teacher vacancies for 2018.

Delaying such announcement would send them on the streets, they argued, which would boost Namibia's unemployment figure of 34 percent.

The aggrieved students marched in protest despite education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa saying last week that the regions have submitted their staff vacancies, and that the ministry would release the bulletin not later than the end of the month.

The students, led by Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha, said they have taken notice of the commitment by Hanse-Himarwa that the bulletin would be released by the end of October.

However, they threatened to take unspecified action if their demands are not met by November 17.

The vacancy bulletin is normally released around July every year to allow sufficient time for a seamless recruitment process.

Hanse-Himarwa said the delay is due to cost-cutting initiatives, which include the implementation of the compensatory reduction strategy at all levels of the ministry, including the filling of positions of staff members as per the directive of the secretary to cabinet.

Other cost-cutting measures include the non-filling of management positions at schools on a permanent basis except for principals, while vacant posts for heads of department are also being filled only on an acting basis.

But TUN and the students disagreed, saying the structural adjustment programme - labelled compensatory reduction approach - would lead to a reduction in government spending per learner, increases in class sizes and a decrease in the quality and quantity of teacher and learner support material.

The students feel such an approach would also lead to a marked increase in the workload of teachers without a pro rata increase in income.

"This will lead to the erosion or reduction of teachers' salaries," the students said in a petition read by Unam Khomasdal campus student representative council vice-president Panduleni Nghifikwa.

TUN also feels this reduction approach would lead to the lowering of standards in public education, as teachers are already being forced to teach at wrong levels and offer subjects they are not qualified in.

They say situations like this happen when colleagues retire or resign coupled with a delay in replacements.

They also complained that the approach would lead to stress and burnout among teachers, which they say will eventually cause a surge in private education provision, which is out of reach of most Namibians.

They warned that the government should not attempt to overcome the economic crisis and problems associated with internal and external shocks, as well as attempt to correct the budget deficit, by overloading teachers with additional work to prevent the appointment of prospective applicants.

The union advised the government to cut budgets elsewhere such as by abolishing unnecessary positions of school inspectors, and non-productive expenditures such as "senseless trips abroad by politicians and technocrats".

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