Editorial Comment

Consider civil servants plight

NOW that the government has directed that schools re-open next week, we call upon authorities to look into the welfare of not only teachers, but civil servants in general, to ensure that learners who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic do not continue to be disadvantaged.

After promising civil servants a cost of living adjustment this year, it makes sad reading that the National Joint Negotiation Council has still not met, and now teachers are agitated ahead of the February 7 schools re-opening.

The lowest paid civil servant earns $18 000 against a poverty datum line of $78 000.

While the government is paying its employees US$75 Covid-19 monthly allowance, civil servants still feel that the gap is still too wide, hence the call for an urgent settlement.

It is common knowledge, the world over, that the highest performing education systems are those that combine equity with quality.

They provide their teachers with an environment conducive for delivery of good quality education.

Policies must raise teacher quality for all schools by developing supportive working conditions to improve their effectiveness and increase retention; adequate financial and career incentives to attract and retain high quality educators.

Authorities need to realise the fact that low morale among teachers results in schools’ failure, which penalises a learner for life.

A student who leaves school without relevant skills has fewer life prospects.

This can be seen in lower initial and lifetime earnings, more difficulties in adapting to rapidly changing knowledge-based economies, and higher risks of unemployment.

The same child is also less likely to take up further learning opportunities and less able to participate fully in the civic and democratic aspects of modern societies.

Over and above that, the government must also realise that educational failure imposes high costs on society because poorly educated people limit economies’ capacity to produce, grow and innovate.

School failure damages social cohesion and mobility, and imposes additional costs on public budgets to deal with the consequences – higher spending on public health and social support and greater criminality, among others.

For all these reasons, improving equity in education and reducing school failure through ensuring that the teaching staff is happy should be a high priority for the government.

The country’s education system, just like the rest of the world, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore, teachers must be in a mood to cover-up for the lost time.

That is why their morale must be prioritised as schools re-open.