B.T.U give government an ultimatum
With just 10 days to go before schools re-open again, teachers’ trade unions have warned they will advise their members – including 26, 00 educators and support staff – not to return to work before receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations.
With the virus already claiming the lives of over 100 teachers, both Botswana Teachers Union (B.T.U) and Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) are adamant government must do more to protect educators.
Indeed, B.T.U Secretary General, Agang Gabana believes sending teachers back to work without their jabs would render the early closing of schools – back on 16 July – pointless.
As 17 August draws ever closer, in this interview with The Voice, Gabana hints at a possible strike and mass demonstrations should their demands not be met.
With government’s vaccination roll-out being administered at a snail’s pace, it seems a stand-off is imminent…….
Teachers have been hard hit by Covid-19 as evidenced by the many death notices. Despite the Union’s attempt to have teachers vaccinated, government has failed to avail the vaccine. What more do you plan to do in your efforts to fight for teachers?
We will continue to advocate for teachers to be prioritized for inoculation. This will be done through lobbying different stakeholders to push our concerns.
One notable intervention is the recent meeting held between the Opposition Caucus in Parliament.
We’ve also notified the Clerk of the National Assembly of our intentions to address the General Assembly.
Based on what the President said recently that teachers are front-line workers, we were hopeful that when the vaccine is available, teachers would be prioritized but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Exactly how many teachers have succumbed to Cocid-19 to date?
Looking at the rate at which our members are losing their lives, we’ve begun to lose count.
I believe at the moment we’ve a little over 100 teachers who have died due to Covid-19 related complications.
Schools are re-opening in just 10 days (17 August) yet there’s still no vaccine in sight. How does that make you feel?
It will be unfortunate if the schools could reopen before teachers are inoculated. Our concerns when we advocated for temporary closure of schools, were on the basis that schools have proved to be hotspots for Covid-19 transmission especially from students.
This will therefore defeat the purpose of the call for the temporary closure of schools and the problem will remain the same.
B.T.U long advocated for the closure of schools during the winter season. Was the government’s response a bit too late?
The government responded very late and the situation would have not been this massive.
As you may recall, we have advocated for schools closure months before the winter season; demonstrating with statistics of cases and deaths of teachers.
Unfortunately the government, through advisors, had a different view.
There are allegations that you’re planning a massive demonstration. Can you kindly confirm this?
In case there is no progress regarding the inoculation process we will mobilize our members and engage in a peaceful massive protest.
We have so far written to the concerned Ministries seeking an audience with them.
We value social dialogue but if it fails we will explore other alternative options as noted above.
Briefly outline B.T.U’s position with regards to Covid-19.
Our position has not changed since the advent of Covid-19 in our country.
It is purely based on protecting teachers from contracting the virus by ensuring that Personal Prospective Equipment (PPEs) are availed to them.
Vaccinating educators has now been added to the held position of protecting teachers.
Where we realise that the Covid-19 protocols are not adhered to by schools, we will advocate for their temporary closure to ensure compliance – something we believe is being done during this period of closure of schools.
We also want Covid-19 be recognised formally as a work place hazard. We want the work place, specifically classrooms, to be kitted to guarantee teachers maximum protection.
We need to set minimum standards of safety that if unmet, teaching and learning should be suspended until adherence is met.
Together with BOSETU you’ve decided to take government to court over challenges faced by teachers as a result of Covid-19. How much progress have you made in this matter?
We will always be ready to take the court route in case we reach a deadlock.
Before the closure of schools we had already started filing court papers, in case teachers are not inoculated as promised we will take Government to court.