WINDHOEK: Learners from various schools in the Khomas Region were sent home on Monday as about 1 000 teachers took to the streets and marched to the head office of the Ministry of Education (MoE) here.
The teachers were led by the Interim Khomas Teachers’ Strategic Committee after the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) secretariat for the Khomas Region was suspended by the National Teachers’ Council (NTC) last Friday.
At most of the schools Nampa visited in the capital today, there were no learners to be seen. The angry teachers are demanding that the salary negotiations which commenced in October last year, be concluded as soon as possible.
In random interviews conducted at some of the schools which locked their doors, learners expressed concern at the effect of the teachers’ actions as they said they are currently busy doing revision with the teachers as the end-of-year examinations are scheduled to start this week.
Meanwhile, those teachers who demonstrated in front of the MoE head office were not granted permission to hand over their petition to Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, by the Namibian Police Force (NamPol).
They then vowed to continue with the demonstrations until their demands are heard by Iyambo.
In an interesting development, nurses who have becoming increasingly vocal about their demands for a salary increase over the past few days have also indicated that they will be joining the teachers in their demand for better wages this coming Wednesday.
Iyambo hurriedly called a media conference on Monday, where he, accompanied by his deputy David Namwandi and his Permanent Secretary (PS) Alfred Ilukena, explained that the strike is illegal as the MoE does not recognise the interim committee which notified the ministry about the planned strike today.
“In as far as the teachers are concerned, the body that is recognised by Government with all bargaining powers is Nantu,” he stressed.
The petition which the teachers attempted to hand over was signed by 10 people, but it is not clear who these 10 individuals are.
“We did not receive and accept the petition as it will undermine the existing recognised structures in terms of the recognition agreement signed between Government and the unions,” Iyambo said.
He stated that the MoE will continue to work with Nantu as the recognised body, and encouraged both Government and Nantu to continue with the negotiations in good faith and in a mature and orderly manner.
Speaking about the closure of the schools due to the strike, Iyambo explained that his office did not make such an announcement, and does not have a reason to suspend school.
No one has the legal authority to close a school without permission from the incumbent Minister of Education.
“Therefore, as far as the MoE is concerned, schools remain open for all learners. Should there be any change that necessitates the closure of schooling, the ministry will issue an announcement in this regard,” the Education Minister stressed. Teachers have decided to remain on strike until their demands are heard.