The spokesman for Botswana’s government says all primary and secondary public schools have been closed down as a temporary measure to address concerns of an ongoing nationwide public workers’ strike that include teachers.
Jeff Ramsey said the move was necessary to protect students following a public sector strike that turned violent.
“We’ve done so because there have been some incidents in a few of the schools particularly in Malopolole where there was unrest and vandalism.” He said the temporary closure will enable the government to “institute measures that not only ensure stability, but also a learning environment in the schools.”
Botswana’s public sector workers are on an indefinite strike to press home their demands for increased pay. The government says the recent global economic meltdown has affected its ability to meet the demands of the striking workers. It sent termination letters to health workers based on a recent court ruling that prohibits them from embarking on any strike action.
The striking workers insist they will continue their strike until the government meets their demands. They have rejected a five percent “conditional” salary increment offered by the government.
Ramsey says the administration will continue to hold negotiations with the striking workers.
“It is our hope that this situation will be resolved by dialogue and mutual understanding,” said Ramsey.
Public workers and opposition groups have accused President Ian Khama of failing to resolve the strikers’ demands.
“This is not a salary increase we are asking for,” said Andrew Motsamai, secretary general of the Botswana federation of public sector unions, “it’s an inflationary adjustment which is 13.8 percent,” he said.
Meanwhile, local media reported that more than 50 students were arrested, and about 21 police officers injured after students rioted in connection with the strike.
The students pelted the police with stones after accusing the government of failing to resolve the strike that has left them without teachers.