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History

Origins

BOFESETE stands for Botswana Federation of Secondary Teachers. It is a secondary school Teachers staff association. Its main aims are to improve the living and working conditions of secondary school Teachers as well as to improve the education system in Botswana. Concerned secondary school Teachers who felt BTU was not doing enough in articulating secondary school Teachers’ concerns formed BOFESETE in 1986 at Sedibelo motel in Mochudi.

The early years

Some of the early National Executive members include G. Phorano, L. Setei, S. Mfolwe, O. Gabasiane, T. Mbuya, W. Sentshebeng, C. Koveya, K. Pilane, T. Koodirile, S Walebowa, B.Z. Tlale, S. Sechele, Ms Lesetedi and R.Boitshwarelo. The BOFESETE constitution was approved in 1987 by the Registrar of Societies and since then BOFESETE has been operating as a duly registered organisation. During this early period, the organisation was very vocal in articulating Teachers concerns. On the other hand, the authorities saw the articuation as militancy and radicalism. Some Government officials, especially in Education, were not comfortable with the organisation and they started to frustrate the efforts of the members, particularly the leadership. Despite all these, Teachers rallied behind BOFESETE and it went on to advocate their problems like housing, non-payment of sportsmasters/mistress and claims of CJSS Teachers when attending workshops.

Early rapid years

The progressive stand of BOFESETE earned it instant support from the Teachers. The Federation grew in leaps and bounds. Actually, at the second National congress in 1988 the National Chairperson announced that the target membership of 500 had been reached.

Relationship with Ministry of Education

The radical stance and progressive nature of BOFESETE that was applauded by Teachers was received negatively by government and the top brass of the MOE in particular. They saw the arrival of BOFESETE as challenge to status quo. They regarded it as a threat to the existence of the “conservative” BTU. They regarded BOFESETE as divisive and sectarian. It was this attitude that was to prevail among Ministry officials throughout those turbulent years. As a result the ministry refused to grant BOFESETE official recognition. This, however did not dampen the spirits of the teaching fraternity. This intransigence by government represented by the MOE made the BOFESETE leadership more determined to represent the Teachers. The refusal by government to grant official recognition meant that BOFESETE could not be availed the stop order facility to allow members to subscribe directly from source. This rendered the federation weak as it did not have a constant source of income and hence could not operate efficiently. This was to become the federation’s “Achilles heel” for many years to come.

The 1987 strike

This heavy handedness on the part of Government did not stop BOFESETE from articulating the problems of the Teachers. In December 1987, Teachers led by BOFESETE complained about low marking fees and conditions at marking venues. The MOE officials that was used to dealing with unorganised Teachers refused to listen to the Teachers’ demands. The result was that Teachers went on strike and refused to mark JC scripts. The strike was a great success for BOFESETE as it showed its strength. (This is however a sad chapter in the history of education in this country. It could have been avoided had communication lines been opened).

Loss of leadership

During the period 1989-1990 BOFESETE lost a good number of its leaders who left teaching for better jobs. Among these were G. Phorano and L. Seitei. The MOE also embarked on some destabilising tactics that saw the vibrant organisation tumbling to the ground. The BOFESETE constitution then had a clause that forbid Deputy Heads and School Heads from being elected into the National Executive committee. This clause backfired as MOE officials promoted some members of the executive committee to deputy and headship posts. Others were transferred to rural areas where there was poor communication network in roads and telecommunication. Other leaders who left in the early 90’s for greener pastures included O. Gabasiane (National Chairperson), T. Mbuya, W Sentshebeng, C. Koveya, K. Pilane and T. Koodirile. There was a leadership vacuum as some Teachers also went into hiding fearing victimisation.

BOFESETE in the mid 90’s

From 1995, Teachers in the Tswapong region under the leadership of colleagues like messrs Mbanga Mbanga, Justin Hunyepa, Marcos Maedza, Gideon Nkala, Ms Agnes Meisie Mogwasa and others worked hard to resuscitate their region (In fact prior to this, the Teachers were contemplating to form an organisation unaware of BOFESETE existence). The skeletal national leadership that was left of Mr RR Boitshwarelo, Mr BZ Tlale and Ms Lesetedi got inspired by their efforts and got in touch with them to compliment each other. Through the efforts of the remaining members of the National Executive, the Tswapong Committee and other individuals in the North East, a general meeting was called at Lotsane Senior in Palapye in 1997. An executive was elected with the following office bearers:

  • Chairman: Messrs B. Z. Tlale
  • Vice-chair: M. Mbanga
  • Secretary General: R. R. Boitshwarelo
  • Vice-Secretary General: L. Dodzi-Botsie
  • Publicity Secretary: J. C. Hunyepa
  • Treasurer: Ms. A. Motswakgalagadi
  • Recording Secretary: Ms. A. Sebopelo
  • Additional Members: Messrs E. C. L. Ditau, Mr. G. Nkala and Mr. K. Kautozu

This was the turning point in the history of BOFESETE as it marked the beginning of the rebirth of the Federation.

Re-launching

After the 1997 elections, there was more groundwork to be done. First and foremost was the need to get the stop-order facility from government. Members were paying their subscriptions over the table and then issued with a membership booklet (the size of our current passport). This type of subscription was not effective since it was not centralised and did not assist the organisation to make some savings. The only best and most effective way was to get subscriptions from the membership through an established government stop-order facility. This would enable the organisation to get the subscriptions direct from source through Accountant General. The government knew how powerful BOFESETE would be to have such a facility at its disposal. Repeated attempts by BOFESETE to get the facility fell on deaf eyes. BOFESETE had to make an all out campaign to get this facility.

It was in 1998 that one insurance company, Libra Insurance Agency, of Mr. Ivan Kleynhans joined the fray. The company was to create job opportunities for Batswana. It was ready to start off by selling its policies to BOFESETE members. For this to take-off, BOFESETE had to have a stop-order facility for deduction purposes. The pressure exerted by the alliance of BOFESETE and Libra Insurance Agency bore results as government finally acceded to our request. The Government then asked BOFESETE to bring a minimum of 200 members for the new stop-order facility to kick off. It was quite a challenge for BOFESETE to come up with such a number within a short period of time due to the nature of our work. Libra Insurance Agency came to our rescue as it had employees on the ground who then managed to recruit Teachers for the new registration. The stop-order facility was launched in April 1999. The facility is working very well now and existing members who have not registered with the new system should do so as well as the new members.

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