SA Jarjou

I learnt that the Gambia teachers are on a sit down strike as a mean of registering their grievances. It is in that note I write in solidarity with the teachers as per their low pay and the poor working environment.

The teachers being the educators who gives us knowledge of the world around us and changes it into something better for good. They advances us a perspective of looking at life and helps us build opinions and have points of view on things in life.

Education is a very vital tool that is used in the contemporary world to succeed. It is vital because it is used to ease most of the challenges faced in life. The knowledge that is attained through education helps open doors to a lot of opportunities for better prospects in career growth. Every human being needs oxygen to survive in the world. Education is as important as this because education gives people the knowledge and skills they require. Education is important to people of all ages and it has no limit. Children require education in order for them to learn how to speak and to write.

The last time I checked education is widely regarded as essential to economic growth, national development and overall prosperity. In The Gambia, education is valued very highly and theoretically given a high priority. Strangely enough, however, the teachers responsible for educating Gambia’s children are not valued that highly as expected compared to other jobs. Considering the rapid increase of goods and services, you would think that teachers would be among the highest paid professionals. Yet teachers are compensated unreasonably to their advanced education levels and are disrespected by many people.

If the salary for teachers were higher, then more people would want to join the profession. With more competition for teaching, the best people would be the ones who are ultimately to be hired. With better teachers at schools, more students would hopefully connect with what they are learning and want to go on to a higher education. With more education, graduates from the University of The Gambia would be better prepared to go out as far beyond Bollibanna.

I remember when my teacher once asked me what I want to be in future. I replied Teacher, he shouted at me “not to pray for that”. And informed me that teachers are the least paid in which they struggle with their salaries to make a leaving as they normally rely on bank overdraft. After a lot of thought, it’s obvious to me that my education would be much better if my teachers felt valued. It seems as though many teachers are asked to do more every year for the same salary or sometimes with a pay cut.

Many teachers have not been noiseless about their reasons for abandoning the profession, low morale and low pay. Yet the state’s response has not been enough to end the ongoing crisis of teachers in schools. The job of recruiting and retaining qualified teachers especially in the rural areas becomes more difficult without wiggle room for bonuses and high pay.

Being a new teacher can be devastating. Without the proper support, it’s tough to make a go of it. I quit my first teaching job at Fatoto Senior Secondary School after just five months. Because the school environment was so lethal with a low pay that I hated my job, and once because I wanted to shift into a different area with a better pay that I can have a good leaving. I was also disappointed to learn that most of my student were without learning materials, and the pressure to get them up to speed was weighing heavily on me. We had no fans in our classroom considering how hot Fatoto is.

My principal was absolutely furious at me for putting him in such a difficult situation. But even worst was the unexpected reaction of my grade 12 students who were about to sat to the WASSCE. I thought they’d be devastated, but most of them barely blinked when I told them Friday would be my last day in school. Part of their nonchalance was because of their young age, but I realized with a sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach that they were so used to losing teachers.

I got embraces, letters and a few tears on the last day of Friday, but the majority of the class was so wrapped up in their own issues that they weren’t even thinking about me. Five minutes before the final bell rang, two of my toughest students got into a physical altercation over an eraser one of them had thrown, and I was so busy dealing with them and that there was no opportunity to have wistful goodbyes. My time at that Fatoto Senior Sccondary School as a teacher ended just as chaotically as it had started.

There are several reasons why teacher’s motivation is important. Mainly because it allows the administration to meet the school’s goals, mission, vision and objective. Motivated teachers can lead to increased productivity and allow a school to achieve higher levels of output. It is high time for the Barrow lead administration to consider the needs of teachers. Majority of teachers quit the teaching field unwilling because of the harsh and stressful conditions. So for teachers to remain teachers and give their best the government needs to increase salaries and allowances.

I believe, Mr. President, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs should look into this issue and consider substantially raising teachers’ salaries. Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.

Saidina Alieu Jarjou
Political Activist