‘Teach­ers are be­ing ap­pointed il­le­gally’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Min­istry of Education and Train­ing is en­gag­ing var­i­ous stake­hold­ers as it looks at amend­ing the Education Act of 2010. This move comes af­ter the min­istry re­alised since its in­cep­tion five years ago, the Act has not been fully ap­pli­ca­ble due to “mis­takes and omis­sions”, ac­cord­ing to Le­sotho As­so­ci­a­tion of Teach­ers (LAT) Pres­i­dent Mos­alet­sane Kule­hile. Among other pro­vi­sions, the law in­tro­duced free and com­pul­sory pri­mary education.

LAT Pres­i­dent Mos­alet­sane Kule­hile speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) reporter Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane about the Act and the union’s in­volve­ment in the min­istry’s quest to have it amended.

LT: The Education Act of 2010—could you tell us what this law en­tails and why it is be­ing amended?

Kule­hile: The Act sim­ply tries to ad­dress gen­eral is­sues in the en­tire education sys­tem. Th­ese is­sues in­clude teach­ers’ con­cerns such as how they are pro­moted and trans­ferred. How­ever, the law has so many mis­takes and omis­sions which is why to­gether with the min­istry and other stake­hold­ers, we are work­ing on an Amend­ment Bill to close those gaps. Ba­si­cally, since it was passed in 2010, the Education Act has not been fully im­ple­mented due to a num­ber of loop­holes.

LT: What ex­actly are th­ese loop­holes?

Kule­hile: The Act was made such that it should cover all ed­u­ca­tional is­sues, from early child­hood to higher education. This is the first prob­lem we en­coun­tered with this Act. As teach­ers, we ex­pected it to ad­dress is­sues per­tain­ing to ba­sic education only. This is be­cause al­ready, there is a law which specif­i­cally ad­dresses ter­tiary education is­sues. And now you find that there are con­flict­ing is­sues be­tween the two laws, con­fus­ing the en­tire education sys­tem. So in the Amend­ment Bill we are cur­rently work­ing on, we are rec­om­mend­ing that there should be two sep­a­rate de­part­ments; one be­ing for ba­sic education while the other one would con­cen-

trate on ter­tiary.

LT: Is the Education Act of 2010 the same law that in­tro­duced free education in pub­lic pri­mary schools?

Kule­hile: It is the same law which talks about com­pul­sory and free education for all. How­ever, this sec­tion is also im­pre­cise. For in­stance, the law only stip­u­lates how par­ents would be pun­ished if their chil­dren are found not to be in school. How­ever, it does not say what should hap­pen with the chil­dren them­selves if they refuse to go to school against their par­ents’ will. The other bone of con­tention in the same law is its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of words like ‘teacher’. The law does not clearly ex­plain what a teacher is. We, mem­bers of the LAT, have since made it clear in the rec­om­men­da­tion for amend­ments, who should be a teacher. Not ev­ery­body who stands in front of learn­ers is a teacher. It should be clear in the Act that a teacher is a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional who is able to ap­ply proper steps to de­velop the minds of the learn­ers.

LT: What other ar­eas in the Act are you

con­cerned about?

Kule­hile: The law talks about peo­ple called in­spec­tors. Th­ese in­spec­tors are only based in Maseru and not in the dis­tricts. At district level, we only have education and se­nior education of­fi­cers. The lat­ter are peo­ple em­ployed un­der the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, and not in the education sys­tem. The Act, there­fore, does not say any­thing about them. But th­ese are the peo­ple who ad­min­is­ter ev­ery­day education is­sues at district level. The in­spec­tors, on the other hand, are fully en­com­passed in the education law, but they are only in Maseru. They are used mostly to ob­serve high schools, not pri­mary education. So what we are say­ing in the amend­ments is we should have spe­cific in­spec­tors in the dis­tricts who will even ob­serve early child­hood schools. Those peo­ple should have rel­e­vant education and skills to deal specif­i­cally with early and ba­sic education. Like I said, at the mo­ment we have in­spec­tors who are only skilled in ob­serv­ing high and ter­tiary schools. We don’t want those peo­ple to also be used to in­spect ba­sic education be­cause that is def­i­nitely not their area of ex­per­tise. We be­lieve one of the fac­tors which con­trib­ute to our de­te­ri­o­rat­ing stan­dard of education is this is­sue of in­spec­tors.

Fur­ther, the law does not specif­i­cally ex­plain what a stu­dent teacher is. The law does not say, in spe­cific terms, whether a stu­dent teacher is some­one en­rolled at the Le­sotho Col­lege of Education (LCE) or Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) or both in­sti­tu­tions. On the same note, the law di­rects that there should not be any­one who stands be­fore learn­ers and teaches them with­out reg­is­ter­ing with the Teach­ing Coun­cil as a teacher. But again that con­tra­dicts with a sec­tion in the same Act which di­rects that stu­dent teach­ers, who are not yet reg­is­tered with the Coun­cil, should be pro­vided with in­tern­ships to teach at schools! The law should then draw a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween a teacher and a stu­dent teacher and their roles at schools.

LT: Why is it im­por­tant to reg­is­ter with the Teach­ing Coun­cil?

Kule­hile: Teach­ers, like nurses and lawyers, should not be al­lowed to prac­tice un­less and un­til they are reg­is­tered with a le­git­i­mate body in charge of the sys­tem. At the mo­ment, we have the Teach­ing Coun­cil, which un­for­tu­nately, is not op­er­a­tive and ef­fec­tive be­cause it com­prises of many of­fi­cials from the min­istry. To make it worse, its chair­per­son is, in ex-of­fi­cio terms, the Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS) in the min­istry. We all know that is a political ap­point­ment. And be­cause of this, the Coun­cil is in­ca­pac­i­tated. Most of the time, th­ese of­fi­cers are en­gaged in other ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters of the govern­ment. They are hardly con­cerned about teach­ers’ is­sues.

LT: So if the teach­ers have to reg­is­ter with this in­ef­fec­tive Coun­cil, how have they been able to op­er­ate since the Act be­came law five years ago?

Kule­hile: All teach­ers em­ployed since 2010 have been ap­pointed il­le­gally be­cause they have not reg­is­tered with the Teach­ing Coun­cil as the Education Act of 2010 stip­u­lates. How­ever, this is be­cause the Coun­cil has not been op­er­a­tive since then. We want the Coun­cil to be op­er­a­tive and reg­u­late teach­ers. In other words, govern­ment has been vi­o­lat­ing the law by em­ploy­ing teach­ers who are not reg­is­tered with the Coun­cil. We have talked about this on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. We are not against new teach­ers be­ing em- ployed but we are say­ing this should be done ac­cord­ing to the law. Govern­ment should sim­ply op­er­a­tionalise the Coun­cil for this to hap­pen.

LT: What other prob­lems do you have with the Act?

Kule­hile: We also have the is­sue of school boards. The law, in vi­o­la­tion of the ethics again, di­rects that mem­bers of Vil­lage Coun­cils should have space on school boards. We all know that th­ese are politi­cians. How do you ap­point a politi­cian to di­rectly man­age a school? It is wrong to al­low them on school boards. Things go­ing our way, we would want elected par­ents and ex­perts to be the only mem­bers of such boards. Sec­tion 23 of the Act stip­u­lates re­quire­ments for such peo­ple to be el­i­gi­ble for se­lec­tion into the boards. There is no need for ad­di­tional mem­bers from Vil­lage Coun­cils, in­clud­ing area chiefs.

LT: So how ex­actly should the Teach­ing Coun­cil op­er­ate, in your view?

Kule­hile: We have learnt from our in­ter­na­tional part­ners how the Teach­ing Coun­cil should op­er­ate. First, it should have its own sep­a­rate law which gov­erns it. Be­cause of that body’s sig­nif­i­cance to the education sys­tem, it should have its own law sep­a­rate from the Education Act. To give an ex­am­ple, we have CHE (Coun­cil for Higher Education) which is a very piv­otal or­gan­i­sa­tion in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of ter­tiary education in this coun­try. It has its own poli­cies and laws guid­ing its op­er­a­tions. That should also ap­ply to the Teach­ing Coun­cil so that it be­comes fully ca­pac­i­tated and ef­fec­tive. Like CHE and other in­de­pen­dent au­thor­i­ties, the Teach­ing Coun­cil should be au­ton­o­mous for it to ef­fec­tively ful­fil its man­date. It should mainly com­prise of teach­ers.

LT: Are there other pro­vi­sions you are not happy about in the Act?

Kule­hile: The law, in par­tic­u­lar Sec­tion 21 which only re­lates to the func­tions of the school prin­ci­pal, also con­tra­dicts with Cir­cu­lar No 9 of 2009. This sec­tion di­rects that a prin­ci­pal, along­side his or her deputy and heads of de­part­ments, are mem­bers of man­age­ment. It is there­fore sur­pris­ing that the Act only talks about the prin­ci­pal be­ing in a po­si­tion of man­age­ment. We ex­pect that as a man­age­ment team, the func­tions of all the three en­ti­ties should be en­shrined in the Act. With­out the law specif­i­cally stip­u­lat­ing their func­tions, prin­ci­pals, their deputies and heads of de­part­ments have prob­lems co­or­di­nat­ing their ef­forts in ad­min­is­tra­tion. Speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence, no school can suc­ceed un­der the man­age­ment of the prin­ci­pal alone. For the prin­ci­pal to suc­ceed, he or she needs the rest of the staff.

LT: Con­sid­er­ing your con­cerns, it ap­pears you were not con­sulted at all when the law was drafted...

Kule­hile: It is clear the teach­ers were not con­sulted when this Act was be­ing drafted. This is the rea­son why it has not been ap­pli­ca­ble. This should be a les­son to law­mak­ers that they should con­sult all rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers first be­fore at­tempt­ing to en­act any other regulation. I should men­tion that im­me­di­ately af­ter this law came into be­ing in 2010, mem­bers of LAT raised their con­cerns with the min­is­ter. We even went to the ex­tent of invit­ing the rel­e­vant port­fo­lio com­mit­tee mem­bers in par­lia­ment to dis­cuss this law. We held a meet­ing at Lake­side Ho­tel and we were sur­prised that most of the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) at the meet­ing were not even aware of the law and how it was ap­proved in the Na­tional As­sem­bly with so many mis­takes. The other im­por­tant is­sue which is not clear in the Act re­lates to the work­ing con­di­tions of teach­ers. For in­stance, you find the law stip­u­lat­ing that a pri­mary school­teacher should teach com­puter lessons, but that teacher was not taught how to teach com­puter stud­ies at col­lege. Again there is no com­puter and elec­tric­ity at such a school. How do you make such a pro­vi­sion in the law with­out first en­sur­ing that all the re­sources are avail­able?

LT: So when are you ex­pected to have fi­nalised the amend­ments?

Kule­hile: Ini­tially, the clos­ing date was 16 Oc­to­ber 2015 but due to some prob­lems en­coun­tered in the min­istry, the date has since been ex­tended in­def­i­nitely. But for our part, the LAT, we are done with our amend­ments.

LAT Pres­i­dent Mos­alet­sane Kule­hile.

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