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WINDHOEK, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- A teachers' strike is looming in Namibia as the government and the teachers' unions could not agree on salary increments.

There are about 27,000 teachers working at 1,800 schools. The teachers are represented by two unions - the Teachers Union of Namibia and Namibia National Teachers Union.

The teachers are demanding an 8 percent salary increase but the government said it can afford just 5 percent this financial year and then a 7 percent the next financial year.

Examinations for Grades 10 and 12 are due in October and the pupils are supposed to be making final touches this month.

Teachers started voting on whether they should go on strike or not the past Tuesday.

Although the results are yet to be announced, government officials including President Hage Geingob have already declared that those who go on strike will lose their salaries.

Geingob and education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa have also said even if the teachers go on strike, the government will not bow down to their 8 percent demand.

He said although the teachers have the right to strike, the children also have the right to be taught.

""Once you go on strike,"" Geingob said, ""everything is off the table. We are concerned about the well being and the welfare of all the workers.""

According to Geingob, other civil servants have accepted the 5 percent.

""We are not saying the teachers have excellent conditions. We know the conditions are not good. They are not good for police officers, army officers as well,"" he said.

He also said teachers should reconsider their actions because in as much as they have the right to withhold labour, the government also has the right to declare a lockout.

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, whose office is the government's negotiating arm, has also said if they bow down to the teachers' demands, the government will have to fork out an additional 600 million Namibian dollars (41 million U.S. dollars).

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also said the government does not have such kind of money, especially now when there are so many pressing issues such as the drought and the global economic turmoil that has sucked in Namibia.

""To be clear, teachers opting to strike will forfeit their salaries for the duration of that period and will not be entitled to backpay,"" she said, adding that the government will not be obliged to award the 5 percent to those who strike.

Hanse-Himarwa said teachers should understand that those who opt for a strike, will have greater losses considering that the 8 percent they are demanding amounts to about 200 or 300 Namibian dollars per month per person.

""Are we willing to die for (that) here?"" she asked. ""I want to make clear here that when you vote in favor of a strike, it will not get you 8 percent,"" she further said.

Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, who also served as education minister for 15 years since 1990, said whatever the teachers decide to do, they should keep in mind the best interests of the children.

Although Angula, now retired, said he believes in fair salaries, he also said that can only be done if and when the country affords it.

""You might get good remuneration today and tomorrow the economy collapses. It means even your big salary will be affected by inflation and related economic fallout,"" he said.

Immigration minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana also weighed in on the subject, saying that if teachers go on strike, it would harm the future of the children.

""I urge you, our dear teachers, in your collective wisdom please avoid making any decisions that will sacrifice the future of our children which will have enduring and long lasting damaging effects on the future prospects of our children,"" she said.

Namibia National Teachers Union secretary general Basilius Haingura said Monday that the teachers should not be intimidated.

Haingura said they are going ahead with the strike if the teachers vote for it, while the Namibia National Students Organization secretary general Dimbulukeni Nauyoma said they will stand by the teachers.


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