Teachers again!.

15/09/2023

While government authorities in Yaounde have been groping to come to terms with a perilous lockdown that has paralysed schooling in the North West and South West Regions, since the start of the current academic year, the West Region has compounded the situation; but with a different reason.

Unlike in the two English-speaking Regions in the lurch because of the satanic imposition of a two-week lockdown by separatist hooligans, that in the West Region is purely dictated by labour grievances by teachers in the Menoua and Nde Divisions.

As The Guardian Post reported exclusively yesterday, a strike action engaged by some Secondary School teachers has paralysed classes in at least eight government colleges in the West Region of the country.

The strike action has been engaged by groups of teachers under the aegis of "On a trop supporté", (OTS), meaning we have supported enough. The strikers also operate in an umbrella known as ‘Operation Dead Chalk’.

Images of teachers on various campuses of the affected colleges carrying placards demanding for better working conditions and solutions to some of their grievances have gone viral on many social media networks.

Other protesting graphics, disseminated on social media, showed some classrooms with OTS written on the board by teachers who have downed their chalk.

Fears are now rife that if urgent actions are not taken by state officials, the strike might also commence in other parts of the country, where the grievances of the teachers are still to be looked into.

In a fire brigade measure, the Governor of the West Region, Awa Fonka Augustine, ordered the Senior Divisional Officers, SDOs, of Menoua and Nde Divisions, to engage urgent actions to thwart the ongoing strike to ensure effective schooling in the West Region.

Governor Awa Fonka expressed fears that the ongoing strike, if left “unchecked...could lead to a contagion effect and paralyse the 2023/2024 school year”.

“It is my honour to ask you to take urgent steps to put an end to the strike,” Awa Fonka, instructed the SDOs, urging them to also brief him, with immediate effect, the results of their actions to nip the situation in the bud.

The Guardian Post commends Governor Awa Fonka Augustine for the quick reaction, as the escalation of the strike as it was last year will further complicate the dire socio-economic and political situation the country is mired in.

But that does not exonerate Yaounde for its traditional ineptitude to resolve the grievances of teachers who constitute 34.7 percent of its workforce.

Why is it that only teachers are always complaining of not having their entitlements being paid when due? Are their salaries and other emoluments not included in the state budget defended by their ministers in parliament? Why should workers in such an important and dominant sector of the public service have to strike or threaten to drop their chalk before attention is paid to their plight?

Last year, the strike was not limited to the West Region but to the entire country, giving the government goose pimples.

As Valentine Tameh, one of the union leaders told reporters when the strike started in January 2022, government has recruited more teachers than it can pay and now owes several years of unpaid salaries.

“You have teachers who have gone for nine years and 10 years without salaries. Government has kept promising…and what is most irksome is that those who have money, go and give bribes and are paid their arrears,” Tameh had said.

President Paul Biya had to douse the flames by ordering the Minister of Finance to disburse some 2.7 billion FCFA for the "progressive" payment of their demands.

That amount virtually paled into insignificance, considering that their claims were said to be in the region of 121 billion FCFA.

It is the inability of the government to meet the progressive payment that has prompted some teachers in the West Region to go on strike.

The Guardian Post hopes the measures the Governor of the West Region has taken, will calm the teachers to take up their chalk to avoid the escalation of the strike.

But government must hasten up to pay attention to their demands. The entitlements of teachers, like all other civil servants, are in the Finance Law. There shouldn't be any excuse to give what is theirs.

Because of the perennial problems of teachers which affect the quality of education, government since agreed on the organisation of a National Forum on Education in 2018 as a panacea for solutions.

According to the teachers' unions, “the National Education Forum is central to solving our problems and reducing the incidence of strikes by teachers. It is through organising such forums that many countries and their leaders show the goodwill that enables them to evaluate, reorganise and streamline their educational objectives".

The government should live up to its responsibility. It cannot be boasting at every turn and twist about economic growth of over four percent and resilient yet, it cannot resolve labour grievances of the main force in the civil service.

 

 

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