About 690 000 learners will have their schooling disrupted if teachers, who are members of the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (NANTU), vote to strike to push for an 8-percent salary increment, which Government is reluctant to hand them.
There are currently 1 779 government and government-aided schools where about 27 000 teachers are employed and these schools could be temporarily shut, as the teachers union pushes government to bow to the teachers’ demands.
Government has, however, reiterated that it is only prepared to give the teachers a 5-percent salary increment.
Education minister, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, did not respond when approached to comment on the looming strike. Although voting was supposed to take place when schools reopened this week, NANTU circulated a memo informing its members that the voting process is postponed due to “technical problems”.
NANTU secretary-general, Basilius Haingura, told this publication during a telephonic interview on Wednesday that Government failed to provide an observer for the vote.
“The process will definitely start next week. We could not have it this week because Government did not deploy an observer, hence, if we had gone ahead the outcome would not have been credible,” he said.
Asked what NANTU will do if by next week there is still no observer deployed, Haingura said: “If that is the case then we will seek for legal opinion to determine the way forward.”
The teaching force totals 27 325 teachers with 22 869 permanent and 4 456 temporary teachers, respectively.
An 8 percent increase will significantly suffocate the ministry’s financial position seeing that its wage bill gobbled N$8 billion out of the total annual appropriation or budget of N$11.3 billion for 2015/16 financial year (71 percent of the total annual budget). The ministry’s operational budget is expected to increase to N$12.2 billion in the next financial year and N$13.4 billion during the 2018 financial year.
Cabinet said the 8 percent increment demand cannot be met because of factors such as drought and the performance of the economy.
Haingura, however, noted an earlier media briefing that: “NANTU observed that the very same Cabinet did not consider the performance of the economy and the drought situation when they gave themselves 6 percent salary increment, they did also [increment] considering other fringe benefits they afforded themselves. We are surprised that it becomes an issue when it comes to the public servants’ demands.”
Just last week, Vice President Nickey Iyambo called on civil servants to only demand salary increments in line with their performance instead of calling for extra remuneration while their work is not up to standard.
“Civil servants should be ready to work hard, deliver results in whichever service area they are, and not just demand salary increments because of inflation, knowing their work has been below par,” said Iyambo while opening the 17th Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair. Although he did not directly single out teachers, Iyambo’s remarks are seen by many as being directed towards teachers, who despite playing a key role in the growth of the country, together with nurses and the police, continue to languish at the very bottom of the country’s income pyramid.