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Teachers strike turns into a bizarre affair

The teachers strike which started this week Thursday is fast becoming an irrational event. From the outside, it seems the strike date was intentionally delayed by the teachers union to be as disruptive as possible, and to monger fear among all those affected by the interruption.
If this strike prevents Grade 12 learners from completing their final examinations, the ramifications go much further than just a 3% difference between the bargaining parties. As everybody knows by now, the teachers through their well-paid union, demand an 8% increment while the government, in a rare acknowledgement of its vulnerability, says it can only offer 5%.
What makes the exchange bizarre, is that according to my information, teachers started picketing at many schools across the country to prevent any learners from attending, and to intimidate any adult who is willing to fill in, while the teachers encamp, to get the learners to sit for their exams.
The whole thing became even more twisted when the education minister had to announced this week the postponement of the first round of examinations, including for such key subjects as mathematics.
The union’s attitude is, “we could not care less. If the government does not want to abide by its own laws and regulations, we shall continue indefinitely to prevent thousands of matriculants from obtaining their Grade 12 qualification.” The education ministry on the other hand follows a hard line repeating something that starts sounding more and more like “Which part do you not understand? There is no more money.”
This strike revolves in my view around much more than just a bunch of hyped-up disgruntled educators. It may yet turn out to be the watershed event that determines the relationship between the government and one of its pet puppets, the unions, for ever henceforth. It is all good and well to use unions to bark on your behalf to intimidate the private sector, but that dog has grown immense fangs over the years and now it has turned on its master, biting back and biting deep. It is indeed a painful experience.
The government has only themselves to blame, fostering a culture of entitlement for years and years. This grab and hold attitude has become so pervasive, it is eroding our independent spirit.
Many people now only think in terms of what they can milk from the government instead of what they must do to contribute to everybody’s prosperity.
Still, I feel some compassion for the government in general, and for the education ministry in particular. I suspect many high-ranking elects now ask themselves, how is it possible that the unions have become so strong, and how on earth did they manage to mobilise such a docile bunch as the national teachers corps? Of course, the unions do not share this remorse, they only look where they can score some more. Never forget, the union bosses are paid by deductions made from employees’ salaries, and then transferred to the union’s account. This is the easiest money in the world, and the weirdest thing about the teachers strike is that the money gets paid by the government, gets deducted by the government, and gets paid over to the union by same government. How bizarre! The government is funding the animals that is now out to destroy one of its key Harambee pillars – education.
At some point in this gravy train economy of ours, reality will have to return otherwise we are in for a load of trouble somewhere in the near future.
Recent events at a public school in Windhoek show just how irrational the culture of entitlement has become. At a parents meeting, the concerned parents were informed that they will have to contribute financially otherwise there is no way the school can maintain its standards on the meagre N$500 per year per learner paid by the government into the school’s coffers. This lead to a choir of protestations with many parents refusing point blank to heed the call for more support but still insisting that their children continue enjoying the privileges of a quality education. These are the parents of the children assigned to public schools by the Teachers Resource Centre where stragglers go to be allocated to a school, any school.
This absurd process of random learner allocation has lead to many upheavals in the past, one of which is classrooms with 40 or even 50 learners per class.
As I said, bizarre fails to describe adequately the deep education quagmire we are digging for ourselves. Perhaps the teachers strike is just another way of venting frustration and anger which has been building in the system for years. And that systems is solely the making of the government.

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The newspaper started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at His editorial focus is on economic analysis based on budget analysis, dissecting strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored scores of journalism students as interns and as young professional journalists. He often assists economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to [email protected]