Teachers at Northridge Private School in Omungwelume in Ohangwena are allegedly facing exploitation at the hands of the school principal, who is also the owner of the school.
Some teachers at the school feel marginalised, underappreciated and underpaid, as they have not received their monthly salary for April and a few months in the previous year.
They have also not received full payment of their salaries since February.
“As of February, we have been getting paid in portions of as little as N$1 000 only,” said one of the teachers, who asked for anonymity.
Teachers lament they have been struggling to make ends meet despite an excessive workload.
“A N$1 000 alone cannot sustain my needs. I have rent to pay, children to support, studies to fund and other monthly expenses. How does he (the principal) expect me to make ends meet with such a salary, and still expect exceptional work from me,” she said.
When called for a comment on Tuesday, principal Godfrey Taruvinga refused to comment over the phone.
“Visit my office. I can’t discuss my financial issues over the phone,” he said.
However, yesterday, he changed his tune and instead referred this reporter to his lawyer: “I do not have a comment; I will just send you the number of my lawyer”.
This was after he called a staff meeting and threatened the teachers for talking to the media, and then he left in a huff.
“We are being threatened, and he might fire us soon,” a teacher said.
The complainant also said, earlier this month, they were told they would only be given “something small” to get them by because the principal has bought school materials.
“He decided to buy school materials to furnish his school at our expense, while we are left to starve”, adding that although the money was promised to be sent month end, they have not received any payment hitherto.
“Up until now, we didn’t receive the little money that he promised us. Imagine, you are already told you will only be given something small, which is still being delayed,” she complained.
Another teacher, who also prefers to remain anonymous, said she was forced to give up on her studies because she could not afford her tuition anymore.
“I could not afford my studies any longer, and I was left with no option but to drop out,” he said.
Asked if they brought their grievances to his attention or reported the matter to the relevant authorities, she said they fear victimisation and threats of retrenchment.
“Many of our colleagues have tried complaining or raising the issues with him but he ended up terminating their contracts. Many of the former teachers have also resigned due to these ill-treatments,” she added.
Due to the high youth unemployment and economic crisis, some teachers at Northridge Private School are hesitant to leave their jobs either due to the fear of going back “to the streets”.
“Sometimes, the little we get can take us a long way than having nothing at all,” added another teacher.
The ministry of education spokesperson, Sem Shino, said the labour law is clear on the matter.
“Every organisation or institution has to follow the labour law. Workers are paid based on various criteria, such as qualification, experience and many other standards, stipulated under the labour law, and employers are obliged to follow that. If not, then they are against the rule of the law,” he said. - firstname.lastname@example.org