Essa Sowe, Deputy General Secretary

By Momodou Jarju

The National Executive Committee of the Gambia Teachers Union, GTUNEC, will advice members to stay away from duty in protest, if Government fails to present permanent solution(s) to the numerous concerns that teachers are grappling with in the country. This statement was disclosed by Essa Sowe, Deputy General Secretary of the said Union and an Executive Committee member.

Speaking to the press yesterday at the Union’s conference hall on MDI Road in Kanifing, Sowe said by 7th September 2018, if Government fails to meet their demands, they would be left with no option but to stay away until the situation is satisfactorily addressed.

The Union demands the full payment of the third term arrears of the School Improvement Grant, SIG, and increase the residential allowance and house rent and/or provincial allowance from D700 and D250 respectively, to D1000 for each teacher in the provinces, who is not covered by transport allowance; that this is a substitute for the increased transport allowance paid to Officers in Region One. The third demand according to Sowe, is for Government to ensure the timely payment of salaries of new graduates from the Gambia College and the University of The Gambia; that this was followed during the first term of the 2018/19 academic year.

“The pegging of residential allowance for Grade 10 earners at D700 while paying grade 1-9 D1,500 means those Supervisors are earning less than the supervised and this anomaly must be fixed immediately. The existing disparities are a recipe for overwhelming challenges for teacher deployment, especially in the provinces. It is a potential impediment for motivation and may lead to the systematic failure of the education sector, leading to poor outcomes,” Sowe asserted.

He continued that the Union has written to and made follow-ups on Government regarding their concerns for the past six months, to no avail; that this is something the Union observed as disregarding them.

Sowe continued that they had written to the Office of the President and MoBSE; but that after half a year, they thought it is enough and that they needed to take a position on the matter.

The Unionists said the Secretary General always tells them that he was busy to meet them; that the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs made pronouncements, promising to provide payment of allowances for the teachers.

Teachers form about one-third of the country’s civil servants, he said; that the Finance Minister’s attitude towards the leadership and management, in addition to his failure after eight months since the pronouncement to pay all their dues, leaves GTU with no option but to dissociates themselves from Government’s inactivity to inspire and motivate teachers.

According to Sowe, the Union has outlined eight points that must be adequately addressed during the 2018/19 budget failure, of which “further industrial action will be taken”.

Sowe said they will engage the Government on the establishment of a Teaching Service Commission, Low teachers’ salary which is still below the 3.5 per capital benchmark as opposed to 1/9 currently, and payment of In-charge allowance to all head teachers and principals heading Schools and not paid acting allowance, which is contrary to Chapter Two, Section two, paragraph six (02206), of the General Orders of The Gambia.

For his part, Babucarr O Joof, General Manager of the Gambia Teachers Union Cooperative Credit Union, said the Union had a policy in its document that states that they should dialogue with stakeholders rather than use industrial action to solve their concerns.

“But it doesn’t mean we didn’t have the option to exercise it. We had it. We are not happy that we are taking such a decision. But at some point, we are asking our members to stay away from the classrooms because we are pushed to that corner, and eight months is enough,” Joof concludes.

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