TEACHERS’ unions are considering industrial action in a bid to force government to address their concerns, which include poor working conditions and low salaries.
The unions, consisting of the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers’ Trade Union (LTTU) and Lesotho School Principals’ Association (LESPA), say they may be left with no choice but to strike after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili did not respond to their petition last month.
The unions submitted a list of their grievances to Acting Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Kimetso Mathaba after marching from the Race Course to the Moshoeshoe I monument in Maseru.
Among their grievances was that the Education and Training ministry did not bother to consult the unions on issues that affected teachers.
They also took issue with the ministry’s circular no. 8 of 2016 which spells out an exit strategy for principals who were engaged on performance contracts without consultation with the concerned principals or teacher unions.
The teachers unions argue the “unprecedented and unprincipled move” resulted in the principals losing their jobs to substitute teachers.
The ministry’s “unilateral” amending of the Teaching Service Regulations of 2002, specifically Regulation Six which orders for stoppage in payment of teachers based on their academic qualifications is another bone of contention.
The teachers unions are also lobbying for the payment of “responsibility allowances” for principals with high qualifications particularly in primary schools.
According to LTTU President Alexis Lesia, the unions intended to hold a meeting early next month to map a way forward in light of the “snub” by Dr Mosisili.
“During our meeting, we will decide what action we intend to take. We may decide to go on strike or engage in a stay away, but we need to meet, plan and agree,” he said.
“We stated clearly in our petition that we need answers, but now it is towards the end of December yet there is no response from government. So, obviously we will have to make a plan.
“We need to meet soon with the committee so that by the time schools open, we are able to inform the members and teachers in general about our conclusion.”
Asked if a decision to strike won’t affect the learning of students, Mr Lesia said teachers needed to look out for their interests.
“People, especially parents and our students, need to understand that teachers need to survive. The only way to address our concerns is to get the attention of the people who are in power,” he said.
“We do care for our learners. We love them and want what is best for them, but we cannot do it well when we are being victimised.”