Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - The nationwide strike by teachers in Tanzania’s public schools, that truncated learning by pupils and students while it lasted, made headlines in local papers this week until the High Court ruled the protest illegal.
Commenting on the teachers’ showdown, the government-owned Daily News said professional teachers “must be persons of high integrity and dedicated to their calling.”
Teachers had taken the action to press their demands for better salaries and working condition, but the government mouthpiece said strikes would not solve their grievances.
“Only positive action on the part of the government will,” the daily said.
Meanwhile, The Citizen described the strike as a “disturbing situation”, noting that Tanzanian teachers “have for ages been complaining they are being given a raw deal, for they rank among the least paid public servants''.
“Teachers, like everyone else, deserve a better life. Their work is so demanding and over-engaging they hardly have time to moonlight to make ends meet,” said the private daily, hailing the key role teachers play in moulding the country’s youth.
According to this paper, the government argues it has been working on their demands “gradually”.
However, the paper raised a sticky question: “Are the teachers involved in making decisions that affect them?
“It is crucial to have them on board if they are to understand the government’s position. That they voted to go on strike means they don’t agree with the government.
“We believe there is a need for a more constructive dialogue between the government on the one hand and teachers on the other hand. Our children’s education is a matter of national concern – and so is the welfare of the teachers,” the daily added.
Focusing on the same issue, another private daily, The Guardian, suggested that digging into the whys and wherefores of the sad and costly development could help, “but it would pay more handsome dividends engaging in efforts likely to lead to realistic modalities of ending the strike and minimising the possibility of similar incidents recurring.”
According to the paper, teachers decided to stay away from work because no deal had been struck with the government on their demands for better working conditions.
“This is not the first time negotiations on the matter have ended in deadlock, with teachers either threatening to resort to ‘industrial action’ or actually downing their tools.
“We stand convinced that negotiations should continue to seriously address the factors hindering the relevant parties from agreeing on a formula to ensure the problems in question do not recur – at least not with the viciousness they often are known for, including denying innocent school children their right to education,” said The Guardian.
On 30 July, the Tanzanian High Court declared the teachers’ strike illegal and Judge Sophia Wambura of the Court’s Labour Division ordered the teachers to go back to work and compensate their pupils and students for the inconvenience suffered as a result of the strike.
Judge Wambura said the teachers would have to “pay” their charges time equivalent to the hours of learning that they lost.
The Citizen reported on the judge’s ruling saying: “Teachers just can’t win, it seems.”
The judge threw out their case because the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) did not stick to the law in organising and calling the strike.
According to the judge, the issue at the heart of disagreement between the teachers and the government had not been dealt with exhaustively by the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration.
“This shows that Tanzania Teachers Union refused to negotiate with government,” the daily quoted the Judge as saying.
Turning to a different issue, The Citizen urged action on cutting down bank lending rates in the country.
“The possibility that lending rates might start declining in the near future comes as a relief to people and businesses that have been starved of cash due to exorbitant banking fees,” said the daily.
According to the paper’s findings, charges on loans currently stand at an average of 15 percent and bankers indicated that the rates would drop to 14 percent or even 13 percent in a month or two.
The rates would go down because the Bank of Tanzania appears to have loosened its grip on the control of money in circulation, the paper reported.
Since October last year, Tanzania’s central bank has been on a mission to reduce the amount of cash in the economy as a way to control inflation, which had reached almost 20 percent in December 2011.
“The bank employed a set of mechanisms including raising the interest rate on loans it takes from the public (treasury bills and bonds).
“This was aimed at pushing banks, other financial institutions and the public to lend their cash to the central bank so as to reduce the circulation of money in the economy.
“The effect of this, however, was to discourage banks from lending to the private sector and individuals. Lending rates also went up slightly and this impacted significantly on the operations of businesses. It also reduced consumers’ purchasing power,” The Citizen observed.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 5Aug2012