Dow backs down on the BEC Bill

In a new twist of events the Minister of Education and Skills Development Unity Dow yesterday decided to withdraw the Botswana Examinations Council Amendment Bill 2015 she presented last week Tuesday.

The Bill which MP's from both the ruling party and the opposition showed discomfort on especially the amendments made to Section 5 (1) and (2) of the BEC Act.

When presenting the Bill Dow said it proposes that the responsibility for invigilation or supervision of course work or examination arising and relating to all examinable subjects offered in an examination centre shall remain the responsibility of the examination centre.

The Bill also gives the employer (MoESD) the privilege to direct teachers in an examination centre to invigilate candidates sitting for examinations.

"The Bill seeks to address the inadequacies identified in the Act especially Section 5 (1) and (2), make provision of the appointment of board members of the BEC on the basis of their competence, knowledge and experience, remove development and publication criteria for accreditation of external qualifications from the functions of the council, make provision of the appointment of the BEC CEO and make provision for the supervision and invigilation of examination and course work," said Dow.

When debating the Bill Leader of Opposition who is also Member of Parliament for Gaborone-Bonnington South,Duma Boko said that the regulation of work of teachers is tied to the Public Service Act.

"The approach to seek to impose further work on teachers is incorrect and must be a separate arrangement between teachers and BEC based on negotiations," said Boko.

He also said that what the Minister was doing was to achieve what the court said it could not be done and render the judgment useless.

"Because of the imposition of added work, it calls for added remuneration. To ensure the integrity of the external examination, BEC must administer the exams," he added.

The Botswana Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso said that some amendments have been made clear to be better understood. She said Section 5 (a) of the Bill seeks to impose on teachers without pay and asked the Education Minister to correct it.

Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central Phenyo Butale pleaded with the Minister to go back, consult and negotiate with teacher unions on the bill.

"The attempt by the minister to force teachers to carry out duties of the Botswana EXamination council that is managed by a different act while teachers are contracted under the public service act is wrong and against the principle of natural justice," said Butale.

He also referred the Minister to a letter dated 2nd November 2015, written by teacher union, Bosetu and BTU, addressed to minister Dow, articulating their position on the bill and begging for dialogue which he said the minister never bothered to respond to or act on.

"It is disheartening indeed that instead of reaching out to teachers with the view to arriving at an amicable solution, minister Dow seeks to further alienate and antagonize teachers. It is wrong for the minister to be seeking to circumvent the 2009 Court judgement that made it clear that teachers can not be compelled to carry out the aforementioned duties',he said.

He said that the Amendment Bill would worsen the plummeting education in the country. He wondered why the government is not tired of having an unhappy workforce.

"You think teachers are robots. They are not tools that can be directed to do what you want."

" You are unhappy with the 2009 judgment and now you want to circumvent the judgment and make what the court said was wrong, a law. You are seeking to sort-out teachers with a half-baked and angry Bill,"he concluded.

In her statement when withdrawing the Bill Minister Dow said since her Government is a democratic one she have seen it fit to withdraw the Bill so she can go and consult on issues that the Unions are not comfortable with which they stated in a letter she didn't get before presenting the Bill to Parliament.


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