By Yankuba Jallow
Teachers Task Force otherwise called ‘Teachers for Change’, on Friday September 28th, met Vice President Ousainou Darboe for the second time in less than a week, and the Ombudsman Fatou Jah Jallow, to discuss issues surrounding their ‘sit-down’ strike.
During the meeting at the Office of the Vice President, the task force with their colleagues from the Network of Mission Teachers, were welcomed by the Vice President. This is their third meeting with VP Darboe.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary of TFC Abdoulie Jallow, said they met the VP to inform him of the series of steps taken by the taskforce, to see that their demands are met.
“Basically we are concerned about our welfare as teachers, and wand the authorities to find solutions to the burning issues we face. The GTU is not representing our interest as teachers. This is what made it possible for us to mobilize as teachers, to go on strike. None of us is happy to be on strike, but that is the only way the authorities can listen to us” he said; that the demands laid before Government is genuine and it is incumbent on the authorities to provide remedies for them.
“We know that some of our demands will be difficult to meet instantly, but some of them are short term demands. We therefore see no reason why all our demands should be ignored,” Jallow said.
Ismaila Manga of the Network of Mission Teachers in his contribution said their meeting with the VP was a pleasure; that there are so many problems faced by teachers that needs redress. Manga expressed dissatisfaction with the Catholic Mission Secretariat, and urged the authorities to look into the issue of teachers and improve their situation.
VP Darboe on his part, is said to have told the TFC that he maintained his stand that teachers will be terminated, if they refuse to report back to their various Schools.
“I am not threatening. If you cannot accept the working conditions, you can resign,” he is said to have told them; that no one will be victimized if the strike ends; that he assured that transport will be provided to teachers, if they end the strike; that the VP informed them that some of their demands were being worked out; that the ID cards for example will be resolved shortly and assured that plans are made by the Ministry, to ensure that allowances are paid on time.
From the VP’s Office, the TFC proceeded to a meeting at the office of the Ombudsman at Cape Point in Bakau. They were oriented on the functions of the office of the ombudsman, under the leadership of Fatou Jah Jallow.
She highlighted the functions of the office of the Ombudsman and told members of TFC that
the office is mandated to mediate on issues involving employees and their employers.
Mr. Nyang the Deputy Ombudsman, said the office is an autonomous institution and an independent body, and urged the taskforce to have trust in them, in providing amicable solution to their plight.
Abdoulie Jallow, the Secretary General of TFC, thanked the officials for convening such a meeting.
He explained the steps taken by the TFC to ensure that their cries are heard.
“As teachers it is time we come up with alternatives to see that our problems are known to the public, because the Gambia Teachers Union that should have stood for us, have failed to represent our interest,” he said.
Omar K. Camara, Director of Communications at the office of the ombudsman, also spoke at the meeting. “You don’t sit on your rights. You fight for them while you continue with your work,” he said.
He assured the TFC that their concerns will be looked into, with a view to resolving them. He called on them to work together to see that teachers are united and to report to School while negotiations continue.
Alhassan Ceesay, PRO of the TFC Taskforce, said he was optimistic with what he heard; he affirmed that TFC is concerned with the problems faced by teachers.
“We have the legal right to form a Union if we wish to, but that is not what we are focused on at the moment,” he said. He expressed dissatisfaction with the GTU, saying they failed to represent teachers as expected. He assured the officials that they cannot finalize anything before meeting the School committee and the general members.
“We are representing people and we cannot finalize anything, before getting to them,” he said.