Geschrieben von Irina Andre-Lang
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National Teacher Strike in Lesotho and its consequences


Unfortunately, we had to cancel the opening ceremony of the 2nd Bishop Manfred Müller boys boarding facility on 9th March 2019. It is currently unclear whether it will be possible to carry out the 12th charity transport of Yes we care! e.V. to Pitseng in Lesotho on 6th March 6 2019 and to visit the sponsored students. An improvement in the academic outcomes at Pitseng High School in 2019 now seems completely out of the question. The teaching at all schools in Lesotho for the year 2019 is in question. The reason?

 

 

In Lesotho, teachers' unions have called for a nationwide strike that is planned to be very protracted, see the schedule of the strike valid for all teachers.

 

 

The topic is the salary payments by the government that have been outstanding for up to ten years, the sometimes inhumane and difficult working conditions for teachers and desired salary increases. The negotiations between the government and the teachers' unions have dragged on for many months now. Last year, a prolonged strike could only be averted by the government pledging payments to teachers.

 

 

These payments have not been made, confidence in the credibility of the government has turned into disappointment and anger. Teachers have been demonstrating since the beginning of the year. Now all schools and teachers are to participate in the nationwide strike.

 

 

Teachers and schools who do not participate in the strike risk attacks, such as Arson attacks. Teaching may only happen for one week each month. Of course, this is impossible given the fact that most students live in boarding facilities as they come from very remote villages.

 

In a long phone call with Makabelo Tenane, school principal of Pitseng High School and manageress to our sponsorship program, she made it clear that safety cannot be guaranteed during a visit to the school, as planned by us in March 2019. With a very heavy heart, we then had to cancel the opening ceremony. We do not want anyone to risk getting injured or our caregivers at Pitseng High School to endanger themselves while trying to continue with the education of our sponsored students.

 

The school administration convened an emergency meeting on Sunday, in which all teachers, members of the school management and the school board, have decided together how they will deal with the situation. Every teacher has the right to decide for her/himself if she/he participates in the strike. In principle, all students should stay at the school/boarding facilities to be available for lessons at any time, should this take place. Whether this could be implemented is highly questionable. The nuns, who run the girls’ boarding facility, are currently unable to take care of all the girls at the girls' boarding in the absence of teachers. They want to send them home during non-teaching weeks. However, many of the girls cannot travel to their remote villages every month because of the high cost of transportation, and others have no relatives to stay with (not taking into consideration the fact that the accommodation fees for the current half of the school year have already been paid to the nuns ...) ... so another solution needs to be found urgently!

 

The preparations for the 12th charity transport to Pitseng have almost been finalized:

 

 

 

 

All charity goods have been purchased, clothes packages for 350 children have been packed, 4,000 apples are ordered, only the sweets are still waiting for packaging. The documents for the border crossing should be in our hands next week. If possible, we will drive these supplies to Pitseng. Whether we will then find students at the school is unclear. If it will be too dangerous, the charity transport and the visit of the sponsored students will have to be canceled and we will have to store the goods in South Africa and wait.

 

 

This strike will have dire consequences for the children in Lesotho. If the strike is implemented as planned, 2019 will be a lost year for all students! Many will leave school for good. Young girls are at an increased risk of becoming pregnant. In a situation where teaching is being conducted only one week per month, it is unlikely any student will be able to successfully complete a final exam. Many relatives will not be able to finance an extra school year for their children.

 

Of course, this will also have consequences for our sponsorship program. There is a great danger that many sponsored students will “disappear" if there will be no regular lessons. If this strike will continue for the whole year, the remaining students will have to repeat this school year.

 

Mrs. Makabelo Tenane hopes that an agreement between the unions and the government will be found soon to prevent a catastrophe. But it remains to be seen how the situation will evolve.

 

We are very worried about this unexpected turn in Lesotho, which deeply affects the most important Yes we care! e.V. program to help needy children in Lesotho - the sponsorship program. We are worried about the near and far future of our sponsored students! At the moment, it's hard to know how the situation at the school and our sponsorship program will develop. Although our influence on the current situation is very limited, we will do everything in our power to ensure that the children will well be cared for during this time.

 

We are very, very sad that we have had to disappoint people who had already booked and paid for their flights, rental cars and accommodations and who were very much looking forward to visiting the sponsored students at the beginning of March.

 

We thank all those who can show understanding in this difficult time and continue to work with us for the future of these children!

With kind regards

Irina André-Lang, Peter Lang, Ulrike Völkmann

Vorstand von Yes we care! e.V.