Teacher trade unions Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) have cast aspersions on the readiness level of amidst government response interventions as plans are afoot to reopen schools on June 1.
Secretary General of BOSETU Tobokani Rari said in an interview that their position as the union is that facitlities will not be ready to welcome back learnbers and teachers contrary to announcement by government. Rari said although powers of reopening school lies with government, the union is not simply excited by reopening but is concerned about safety of its members being the teachers.
“We have been locked this week in meetings with both ministries of Basic Education and Local Government over the plans put forward to facilitate reopening of schools on June 1. We are concerned about the ability of the ministry to meet requirements set by health ministry. At this stage the situation is still miserable,” he said, elaborating that there are numerous underlying challenges that pose risks. He cited the example of temperature screening in schools, noting that practically it may not be possible exercise in a school environment.
According to Rari, if a school with population of 700 students alone is going to be using only 1 thermometer to screen temperatures as ministry proposes this will lead to lot of time wasted. “Screening of temperatures for registration purposes is a mandatory health protocol that is prescribed by the Ministry of Health. There is a serious need to resource the schools so that it becomes easy to adhere to the health protocols to avoid putting pupils lives at risk,” Rari argued.
However, he said BOSETU will also dispatch its teams in the regions to do thorough assessment to monitor if schools are complying with health COVID-19 health protocols before gradual reopening. “Government promised to conform to high standards of hygiene by setting up hand washing points for regular hand washing by students. But only with a week left before schools resumes, some schools as we speak today have no such hand washing basins,” he observed.
Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) President Gotlamang Oitsile said teachers should only report to duty provided that government has complied with all covid 19 health protocols. He noted that earlier on in March schools closed prematurely due to COVID-19 threats. “It is not like we are against government’s wish to see school calendar resuming. If all promises made to us by the time set for schools to reopen then teachers will report to work. The ministry has promised us to scale up tasks that are still behind and expect report soon,” Oitsile added.
He said some of the promises they are looking forward to is the deployment of Safety and Health Officers in all the schools adding that union want teacher’s safety not be compromised.
Double shift crisis
Furthermore, as BOSETU is doubtful in terms of successful extreme social distance in learning classrooms Rari said the ministry has proposed the use of a double shift system, which they totally disagree with. Rari argues that such a system will plunge education back into crisis. He , however, revealed that they are still in negotiations with the minister over possibilities of introducing the double shift in an endeavor to resume the school calendar.
“We were totally against the double shift proposal because it has caused serious problems to the education before. Our classes are populated with a large number of learners and the ministry proposes that a teacher can meet half of a class of 40 in separate sessions and this will waste teachers’ time to prepare,” he said.
He indicated that government has promised to hire more teachers for primary education level in response of dealing with overcrowded classes thus easing for proper social distancing rules.
Concerted efforts to reach Minister of Basic Education Fidelis Molao were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was not available but his Tertiary Education counterpart Dr Douglas Letsholathebe is confident on his side that all plans are going well to resume lessons.
Speaking to The Patriot on Sunday on Saturday, Dr Letsholathebe said all the universities were instructed to reach Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) to submit their restart plans. “I have been on leave but starting Monday I will be checking on progress. I am confident that there will be no challenges in complying by tertiary institutions,” he said.