AD408: Most Basotho say government bungled teacher strike, is failing on education and youth

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Puleng Adams and Libuseng Malephane

Lesotho’s public school teachers were on intermittent strike for most of the 2019 academic year, working just one week per month (Ramolibeli, 2020). With the economy in the doldrums (Majoro, 2019), teachers pursued their protest action against the government, pressing for better salaries and working conditions, payment of salary arrears, and a restructuring of the teaching service (Segoete & Phakisi, 2019; Lesotho Times, 2019).

Charges of government mismanagement added fuel to the fire, as critics said funds that could have been used to address teachers’ demands were misused to service loans to members of Parliament at taxpayers’ expense (Latela, 2019) and to support grossly wasteful government expenditures (Public Accounts Committee, 2016).

Meanwhile, the proportion of students who passed the junior secondary certificate examinations dropped from 65.5% in 2018 to 62.4% in 2019 (Examinations Council of Lesotho, 2019).

After further losses in learning time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have returned to the classroom since the lockdown was lifted in May 2020 (Motsoeli, 2020). But the dispute, which predates the current coalition government (in power since 2017), continues to simmer (Lesotho Times, 2020) even as final examinations are underway, and the possibility of further strike action remains.

The most recent Afrobarometer survey shows that Basotho are solidly behind the teachers’ demands and believe that the government has mishandled the affair. Most also say the government is doing a poor job of addressing educational needs as well as the needs of the nation’s youth in general. If the government could spend more money, Basotho would prioritize job creation for young people. In fact, a majority would willingly pay more taxes if that would mean funding for initiatives to help young people.

These findings suggest that Basotho want a less intransigent government response that will end the protracted dispute with teachers and address critical education and youth development needs of the population.