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Calls for health workers to be exempted from deferment of salary increment

TEFO PHEAGE

The Leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando has written a letter to President Mokgweetsi Masisi calling on him to stop the salary deductions of the disciplined forces to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. The government has taken a controversial decision to deduct the disciplined forces salaries under the guise of volunteerism.

Saleshando says Masisi should intervene. “Members of the Police Service as well at the Botswana Defence Force have received communication from their superiors urging them to contribute their earnings or savings to the COVID-19 Fund. Fixed amounts have been set for each rank. Though the communication suggests that the contributions are voluntary, we all know that a request from the highest authority, in the culture of disciplined forces, is a command,” he said.

The letter further says: “Our men and women in uniform are part of the front line and have had to carry a heavier workload when we all took the back seat and worked from home. It is unfair to subject them to an additional financial strain. I therefore urge you to reverse the call for donations by the head of the police and army. Let those in the disciplined forces who wish to contribute follow the same procedure set for every Motswana. They can deposit directly to the advertised accounts and not through their superiors. Kindly also consider exempting health care workers from the recently imposed salary adjustment postponement,” Saleshando stated.

“Some countries have introduced special allowances for their health sector employees in appreciation of the burden they carry in responding to the crisis.”

The Leader of the Opposition further called on government “to exempt health workers from a decision to defer salary increments”, which civil servants are currently protesting.

“In all the countries that have recorded a high number of COVID-19 deaths, health workers have formed part of the statistics of the dead. There is need for you to assure our health workers, who are risking their lives working in the frontline of this ravaging war, that government will avail adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Our two public universities (UB and BIUST) recently announced a number of innovations related to COVID-19 response. I commend the two universities for their innovations,” he added.

He urged Masisi to instruct the National COVID-19 Response Team to engage the two universities together with Business Botswana to explore the possibility of setting up production plants for some of the required equipment.

On education, Saleshando says as the current lockdown comes to an end, there is need for Masisi to give clear directions on what is to happen within the education sector.

“The State of Public Emergency (SoE) regulations state that schools will remain closed for the duration of the SoE, which is six months. The Minister of Basic Education has indicated that if schools are not reopened soon, all students will have to repeat. To the greatest extent possible, this should be avoided,” he said.

The letter continues: “For all intents and purposes, learning in public schools has come to a halt while private schools continue to deliver content to their students through e-learning. Our public education has to transform and central to the transformation is the use of technology in the classroom. The rollout of iPads to students, and associated internet infrastructure, is no longer a political rally issue. It’s an urgent imperative requiring your attention.”

He called for the engagement of the temporary teachers who have the requisite qualifications for the jobs they do to be fully employed. “The temporary teachers operate through termly contracts and are unsure of their jobs at the moment. Their work conditions are not conducive for the provision of quality education centred around a motivated teacher. We need to urgently confirm all temporary teachers as permanent employees,” he says.

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