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B.T.U want Covid-19 recognised as a workplace hazard

Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) intends to submit new proposals during the second cycle of the biannual negotiations of service with Government.

Speaking at BTU’s Sector Conference held in Palapye, Secretary General Agang Nani Gabana said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact in both health and the economy, and brought new challenges in the workplace. The Sector Conference was held under the theme: Overcoming Pre Primary and Primary Sector Challenges in the Midst of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Gabana said Covid-19 is an occupational hazard for educators and learners alike, and a higher risk for teachers more so many to date have lost their lives.

“The education sector has been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic since to date, more than 44 support staff teachers have passed on. This goes without saying that the teaching-learning process has also been immensely affected since the affected are expected to stay home to avoid magnifying the spread of the virus,” said Gabana.

He further said the virus has put enormous pressure on both fiscus and human resources, in some cases siphoning resources away from other priorities for health mitigation.

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The BTU Secretary General said under these circumstances there’s a case for new recommendations on the conditions of service for educators. Gabana said the pandemic now compels them to revisit the conditions of service within the confines of the given resources be they physical or human.

“We certainly cannot pretend that its business as usual since reality on the ground reflects otherwise. Therefore, we intend to engage the government on this matter,” he said.

Gabana said they propose a three-point adjustment to conditions of service in the Covid-19 era.

He said first they demand that Covid-19 be formally recognised as a workplace hazard.

They also want classrooms to be kitted to guarantee teachers maximum protection; with a standard minimum set of safety requirements, which if unmet should result in teaching being suspended until adherence is achieved.

“We also propose that thresholds for Covid-19 school positivity rates should be set, which once breached, teaching and learning should automatically cease,” he said.

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In his remarks B.T.U President Gotlamang Oitsile said educators are today living in unprecedented times where they are not sure of what the next day will bring.

“Our lives, especially of teachers, are exposed to the deadly and life threatening virus; Covid-19 pandemic,” said Oitsile.

The President said their efforts to speak to the powers that be to vaccinate teachers are ongoing.

“Our hopes are also pinned on what the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said in his address to teachers on National Teachers Day early this month; and the campaign we have launched titled ‘Vaccinate Educators’” concluded Oitsile.

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