Nathanael Kaunomuinjo Mbaeva
Costa Mutonga Musunga’s letter ‘Name NSSCAS teachers grade 7 on salary scale’ and published by New Era on 1 April 2021 refers.
The letter reveals some attractive anomalies pertaining to salary scales and remuneration in the public service.
As far as I know, for as long as two civil servants are in the same salary band, they receive the same salary irrespective of their performance. As civil servants, we are all entitled to a 13th cheque (also called a bonus in general parlance) irrespective of our performance over the past 12 months.
Only employees who were appointed on a temporary fixed period (even if the appointments have been renewed for over five years) do not receive a 13th cheque.
Musunga assumes the challenges faced by NSSCO/NSSCAS teachers are much higher than those faced by lower grade teachers, and therefore they should not be in the same salary band.
When one recalls the outcry from primary and combined school principals at the time when they were not in the same salary band as secondary school principals, one will expect that this assertion will not be acceptable to some teachers. In the same vein he posed an interesting question: “At which level or phase would teachers prefer to teach receiving the same salary?” This question, if researched properly may reveal the oversupply of teachers at certain levels or phases and the scarcity at certain levels and for certain subjects.
Within the education sector, the post of Senior Education Officer (SEO) is perhaps the most anomalous one. [Nowadays, one is hesitant when completing a form at the category profession/career/job. People ask: ‘What is an SEO?’ Is it a Search Engine Optimizer?] There are many SEOs in the same salary band but with different job descriptions.
They are all in grade 6 like the HODs at school and hence below the school principal.
The SEOs at NIED develop the curriculum (subject syllabuses including NSSCAS), develop materials (sometimes writing relevant textbooks), train stakeholders (subject teachers, HODs, school principals, other SEOs and inspectors) to implement the curriculum (subject syllabuses).
The SEOs at regional level visit schools and advise subject teachers including HODs and principals while the school inspector (grade 5) for example, is a quality assurance officer who makes sure that the curriculum (developed by the NIED SEO) is successfully implemented without impediments.
The SEOs at the DNEA coordinate the setting of examination papers and the marking of answer scripts.
Other SEOs from NIED and regional offices as well as senior teachers (not necessarily HODs and or principals) are also involved as setters and markers.
In fact a number of SEOs had been HODs and or school principals. These SEOs feel they were demoted and degraded as the HODs were moved a band up and the SEOs not.
It is certainly difficult and a daunting task to fairly, consistently and in a transparent manner establish the relative worth of jobs especially within the public service.
On the contrary, it is an open secret that government pays a significant number of civil servants (including teachers and education officials) salaries that are not commensurate with their performances on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis! The civil service failed completely to appraise the work done by civil servants and to effect pay increases and promotions or to effect pay decreases and demotions accordingly.
Salary increments in the civil service have always been “across the board” for employees in the same salary band.
The education sector (system) is always blamed by all and sundry for non-performance but no teacher, HOD, principal, SEO or inspector has ever been dismissed for incompetence related to his/her core responsibilities as far as I know. A teacher for example is not dismissed for poor subject or pedagogical content knowledge.
Teachers are always heard complaining that they lack knowledge of this and that and need training without fear of being dismissed.
Imagine a medical doctor who publicly complains that s/he does not know how to diagnose certain general ailments and needs a workshop! Such a doctor will lose clients and may be subjected to an investigation by the medical council.
Teaching as a job is nearing saturation point in Namibia. This will pave the way for the transformation of teaching into a profession.
Certain levels and phases of schooling are already experiencing an oversupply of teachers while teachers for some levels, phases and subjects are in short supply.
This will tighten up the recruitment of teachers especially at the levels and phases with an oversupply.
Schools will have choices to make and only the best will be recruited and non-performers will be dismissed.
In the end those in short supply will bargain for higher salaries.
So, market forces will in the end determine what teachers will be paid.
I dwelled too far away from Musunga’s letter.
Let me come back to it in conclusion.
To move all NSSCAS teachers to grade 7 on the basis of the fact that the qualification is challenging and demanding is not unacceptable in my opinion, but the problem is that it will then be an adjustment “across the board”.
All teachers who are teaching at this level will move a band up even those who are doing nothing to face these challenges and demands.
Moreover, HODs and principals who are teaching at this level will also demand to move a band up.
What about office bound education officials who were involved in the development of the NSSCAS curriculum and those who are overseeing its implementation?