Members of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) including approve and unapproved teachers across the country have registered their complete displeasure with their “provocative” appalling working condition of service, under they earn abysmal salaries and are being urged by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to declare their assets.
Government had recently made increments of 30% which is about Le 250,000-Le300, 000 to the salaries of approved teachers, leaving the multitudes unapproved. According to the ACC it is mandatory for all public officers to declare their assets.
Teachers fall under the category of public sector worker thus failure to comply with mandate the commission will enforce penalties against defaulters. The commission had announced May 31st this year as the deadline for the declarations of assets by all public servants.
Out and about in the streets of Freetown and elsewhere in the country to gauge the views of approved and unapproved teachers, this reporter spoke to several teaching staff from different schools in Freetown, in the Western Rural District, and in the provinces.
To know how teachers feel about the declarations of their assets by teachers to the ACC, Mr John Bull of Service Secondary Juba west of Freetown has this to say; “we virtually have nothing to declare considering the present condition of service of teachers, even if one teaches for more than one hundred years, you will only receive a salary to eat not for savings and personal development. So what is there to declare to the ACC when a salary of a teacher is less than $ USD 200 per month? That can only buy a teacher and his family a bag of rice. Our situation as Government workers is so demotivating when compared with our colleagues working in other sectors.”
Mr Bull said they are being “provoked” by the ACC only to be called upon for assets declarations when they don’t even have good shoes to wear to their various schools of work, whiles referring to the whole issues of assets declaration order from the ACC, urging teachers to publicly declare their assets as mere “provocations” to one of the “poorly paid public service jobs” in Sierra Leone.
At the Independent Memorial Secondary, a Physical and Health Education teacher who has served the profession for well over twenty years but didn’t tell this reporter his name for personal reasons, said; “I was shocked to be urged by authorities in my school to fill the ACC assets declaration form. I actually have nothing to write in the form with all my wasted years of teaching. So for me, all I did to the form were nill, nill and nill throughout because I have nothing to show for my long term service rendered so far in the teaching profession, except, dusters, chalks and blackboards.”
For the unnamed teacher, the ACC should be monitoring and probing corrupt ministers, heads of departments and agencies who are presently bust amassing wealth they could hardly explain their means of acquisitions, rather imposing assets declaration on “poorly paid” teachers who have nothing to point at for their selfless services to the nation.
At the Ahamadiyya Muslim Secondary School at Newton, in the Western Rural District, Mr Ibrahim Kamara teaches Literature in English. He is serving as an unapproved teacher for well over seven years ago.
Asked for his personal impression about the recent 30% pay rise in salaries of teachers and the ongoing assets declarations by teachers, Mr Kamara replied; “am not impress at all. It is so disappointing for us to be facing such humiliations of imposed teachers’ assets declarations while in fact most of us can’t account for proper official dress codes to our various schools of work. We expected the ACC to have come after the big corrupt guys who are making unexplained wealth all over the country at the detriments of the nation and the masses not teacher. We have nothing to hide so even we are given the time and space to be declaring our assets on weekly basis there is nothing we can record as tangible asset acquire from the teaching profession, except our classroom teaching equipment-dusters, chalks etc.”
According to Mr Kamara, teachers are not corrupt but the system they serve, which supposed to be managing them well because they are the producers of all professionals in the country and the world at large, therefore need proper care for their welfare by any sober government, for the improvement of their conditions of service.
At the same school, this medium further engaged another teacher this time around a lady who happens to be a mathematics teacher at both senior and junior secondary school levels. Her name is Mabinty Borah Bangura fondly known as Ms B.B. She said the teaching field is less motivating for young graduates, adding that it is slowing the human development of young people, especially with such horrible salary scales, while their colleagues in other places of work are busy making headways in different fields of life.
“So most times you even wonder why you went to university after all your struggle to acquire your qualifications only to be reduced to a funny level of life,” she observed, hence refused to comment on neither the ACC assets declaration programme nor the recent 30% salary increments for teachers.
The bitterness and frustrations over teachers’ assets declaration are felt and expressed everywhere in the country, to the magnitude that even in ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party support bases of Bo and Kenema, where teachers made so many sacrifices for the party to win, are also unhappy with what they described as “provocations” by the ACC instructing them to declare their assets, failure will cost them their jobs.