In a new twist in the war between Ministry of Education and Skills Development and teachers’ unions over coursework and invigilation, minister Unity Dow is intending to amend the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) Act in order to force teachers to invigilate coursework.
Just two weeks ago teachers unions (Botswana Teachers Union and Botswana Sectors of Educators Union) announced that they are going to boycott this year’s final examinations due to the collapse of negotiations on how teachers will be compensated. The ministry is now retaliating by amending the BEC Act so that coursework and invigilation can be part of a teacher’s duties. The Amendment Bill states that the responsibilities for invigilation or supervision of coursework will remain the responsibility of schools. The bill that was published two weeks ago in the government Gazette will be presented in the Parliament session that resumes after the State of Nation Address by President Ian Khama in November.
Under the Bill, members of the Board of the Council will be appointed by the minister on the basis of their competence, knowledge and experience. Section 5 of the Amendment Bill makes it the responsibility of the Council to manage and conduct all school examinations.
A new section in the Bill is that the responsibility for invigilation or supervision of coursework or examination arising and relating to all examinable subjects offered in an examination centre shall remain the responsibility of schools. In September 2009, in a case between Opelo Makhandela, then director of Teaching Service Management (TSM), and teachers unions, Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi ruled that teachers were not obliged to invigilate external examinations, as that is the mandate of BEC. The Amendment Bill states, “The employer may at any time direct a person employed as a teacher in an examination centre to invigilate or supervise candidates sitting for an examination.” This means that there shall no longer be any negotiations between the teachers and government every year since teachers will be forced to do coursework or invigilation without being compensated for it.
According to the Amendment Bill the Standard 4 attainment tests will also be removed from the Council to be administered by schools. Currently they are under BEC and teachers are paid to invigilate them. Reached for comment the Secretary General of BOSETU, Tobokani Rari said they were not consulted about the amendment of BEC Act. He said he remembers that in 2014, the ministry during a stakeholder meeting proposed to amend the BEC Act especially the clause on coursework and invigilation. “After that there was never consultation. You cannot remove the work of the other organ and put into another.
Our preliminary view is that it is illegal what the minister is trying to do,” said Rari adding that they are going to meet with their lawyers to seek an opinion in the proposed Amendment Bill. “We are yet to meet with all Members of Parliament to address them on this issue so that they could reject the Bill in the next session. We will also rope in our motherbody, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to assist in this matter,” explained Rari.
His counterpart, president for BTU, Johannes Tshukudu, said they are going to meet with Minister Unity Dow this week to get an explanation on what propelled the ministry to include coursework and invigilation in teacher’s duties. “If it meant to sabotage teachers we will rebel against the Amendment Bill,” said Tshukudu. Following the collapse of negotiations two weeks ago over remuneration of this year’s invigilation for final examinations and coursework, unions and Minister Dow are meeting this week. In the last meeting unions pulled out because the minister did not turn up.