With the announcement of the Gambia Teachers Union that if the Government of The Gambia does not fulfil its promise of meeting the demands of teachers which they made months ago they will embark on a sit-down strike from September 7th, 2018, many folks on here have seen it fit to take teachers to task mainly on two points.
The first point many folks raise is that the condition of teachers has been the same for the past three decades or so, but no one heard of a teachers’ strike. The innuendo is referencing the fact that when Yahya Jammeh was here, no teacher embarked on a strike. In other words, it’s another form of the question of Pres. Adama Barrrow ‘Where were you?’
This insinuation is flawed and should not even be raised at this time of our democracy. We all know that during the regime of the former president, the government curtailed individual rights and liberties. We saw that that was part of the reasons that the country’s development was so slow or non-existent in some respects. Thus, we came together and struggled to defenestrate it. If therefore we have a new dispensation today, it will be unfair to say that because teachers did not strike in the previous regime they shouldn’t now.
The previous regime did not allow any form of dissent and going against them could result in the loss of life of limb. So, it would have been imprudent to embark on such strike. When therefore our new government takes office, the best way to ensure that we do not revert to what used to obtain is to keep them on their toes.
The second point from which they want the teachers not to embark on a strike is that the challenges of small salaries is not peculiar to teachers. They postulate that nurses, the police, soldiers and others also need salary increment. This is a subtle way of asking teachers why they think they deserve this. Then they say the strike is unnecessary because the government does not have money.
This argument is also baseless for the following reasons. It is true that it is not only the teachers that are facing the challenges of low salary, but that does not mean that they should not fight for what is due to them. So, teachers – if they feel that they have exhausted all options – have the right to go on a sit-down strike.
These folks will now try to bump the heads of teachers against the general public. They say that teachers do not have to embark on strike lest they harm the children. They say that teachers have to find other ways of protesting or seeking solutions to their problem. They conveniently ignore the fact that negotiations were held where government promised to resolve the problem. Despite efforts to engage them in a discussion, they failed to do anything even after eight months.
These folks also ignore the fact that even tough they tell us that government does not have money, they announced an increment in transport allowances for civil servants this year. The only ironic thing about that was that it was unevenly and unfairly distributed. For instance, whereas a teacher or even a principal of a senior school can receive up to two thousand dalasis as transport allowance, a permanent secretary or director and deputy director at the ministry receives up to eight or ten thousand for the same thing even if some teachers and principals have higher academic qualifications than some of those at the ministry.
The other aspect is that some teachers – those in the provinces – are receiving only two hundred and fifty dalasis as hardship allowance and no increment in transport allowances. This is injustice of the highest order, yet these people will only blame teachers for wishing to go on a strike. Interesting.
Then there are those who wish to bring in the fact that the results of the WAEC exam this year were poor, and the fault goes to teachers and thus they do not have any right to demand better pay. What crap! Do they know what the teacher is going through? It is totally wrong to assign the entire blame of the poor performance to teachers. Granted, teachers have to shoulder a portion of the blame, but government, parents, and society also have a portion of it.
Besides, who decides what is worth striking for? Everyone knows your circumstances better and thus can decide on your own. What is a nuisance to you might be very important to another.
I am fully in support of a sit-down strike by the GTU!
Tha Scribbler Bah
A Concerned Citizen