Teacher vacancies ready soon

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa says the delay in publishing the teacher vacancy list for next year was necessitated by a cost-cutting exercise.

16 October 2017 | Education

The education ministry has apologised for the delay in the posting of teaching vacancies but said the temporary inconvenience was necessary in order for the ministry to comply with government orders to trim unnecessary expenditure.

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said the deadline for regions to submit their staff vacancies was Thursday, and the ministry's cut off line for the cabinet ratification and publication of the bulletin is hoped to be no later than the end of the month.

Hanse-Himarwa said the publication of the vacancy bulletin in November allows sufficient time for the various role-players to comply with the processes in appointing teachers for the next school year.

The minister acknowledged that recent concerns expressed about the delay are “well warranted”, and that the ministry “understands the interest and anxiety that the delay” has caused.

At Thursday's press conference to explain the factors that have led to the delay, she said they have been vital to streamlining future processes at the ministry.

“Going forward this inconvenience will be translated into a successful transition and progress of our activities in the ministry. So it's a once off inconvenience, and we apologise for it, but it is for a good cause going forward.”

The minister said that in recent months a stringent auditing process of the entire region's staffing needs were carried out as a quality control measure and in order to ensure that the ministry sticks to its mandate to reduce its wage bill where feasible.

In July schools submitted vacancy lists to the ministry but the “verification exercise revealed that the financial implications of the regional staffing needs as presented were highly unsustainable.”

Schools were instructed to revisit their staffing needs “by critically and analytically assessing their workforce or staffing as per the post provisional norms and to resubmit their prioritised vacancy lists.”

The minister dismissed recent accusations that the delay had been deliberate as “absolutely irrational, irresponsible” and based on incorrect facts.

She repeated previous public statements that the ministry's wage bill accounts for 85% of its total budget spending, which leaves the ministry “with very little on capital spending, which has a significant bearing on teaching and learning.”

She said that increasing government wage bills have reached “unsustainable” levels from an economic perspective.

As such, the ministry has to “ensure that the money we receive is not only well spent, but also fully accounted for. This can only be achieved by ensuring that we put our house in order while making sure that we employ the checks and balances necessary.”

In line with efforts to streamline spending and ensure that the necessary due diligence is applied to spending, the ministry has introduced a number of compensatory reduction strategies at all levels.

This includes not filling vacant management positions, except for principal posts. Head-of-departments are appointed only on an acting basis.

An annual verification of payroll data is conducted, and discrepancies addressed, while conducting annual head counts of staff in “order to eliminate the possibility of ghost staff.”

An analysis of current staff levels at schools and the identification of uneconomical schools are being conducted, and the gradual consolidation of these schools with other schools is being considered.

Hanse-Himarwa said these and other measures are in line with the ministry's expected compliance to contain the growing wage bill and to trim the size of the ministry, especially in regard to staffing.

Teachers Union of Namibia (TUNJ) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha could not be reached for comment yesterday. This week he threatened countrywide protest marches because of the delay in the posting of teaching vacancies.

Hanse-Himarwa yesterday said the ministry's open door policy remains applicable to all, including TUN and other unions. She said that TUN should have the “mettle to come forth and engage us appropriately and we shall oblige in the interest of the Namibian child.”

JANA-MARI SMITH

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