GTU gives gov’t ultimatum to pay arrears or else…

GTU gives gov’t ultimatum to pay arrears or else…

By Cherno Omar Bobb

The Gambia Teachers Union (GTU) has called on the Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to pay arrears it owes schools by the 19th of July 2023 or “we will reconvene and advise ourselves accordingly”.

The remarks were made by Essa Sowe, deputy general secretary of the Gambia Teachers Union yesterday, Thursday, during a press conference organised by his office to react to the delay and in some instances non-payment of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) by the government.

A couple of years ago the Government of The Gambia abolished school fees and introduced the School Improvement Grant (SIG). However, according to the union, government is falling short on its responsibilities.

Mr Sowe said that in 2018 they sent a list of demands to Government and categorised them into three levels, adding that the SIG fell under level three.

He revealed that “Government is currently owing schools D73, 266,135.00” meant to run the schools, describing it as “a lack of action, lack of respect, failure to comply and fulfil their obligation”.

He also said that they still had 35.5% of the D206, 636, 011.00 required for SIG and books were pending, adding that the resources required to run their schools were not forthcoming.

He also said that they also conducted an investigation and realised that according to the 2023 budget, Government should be providing a sum of almost D10M monthly admin cash plan to the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) to run that sub-sector but only D4M was being given to them monthly.

A sum of D6,862,499.99 monthly development cash plan should be given to MoBSE but instead they were given D3,000,000.00, he also claimed.

He said the GTU Credit Union had been giving overdrafts and loans to head teachers to prevent their schools from collapsing.

“We cannot accept this thing anymore,” DGS Sowe said.“We have gotten to the brim and as a result we want these monies to be paid and paid now. By the 19th of July if they fail to deliver the money at the schools’ accounts, we will reconvene and advise ourselves accordingly.

“It is not a threat; we are just doing the needful. This money must be paid and paid now. Government is not taking education seriously. We are advising the executive and National Assembly Select Committee on Education, Training and ICT and the Public Service Ministry to ensure the monies are paid on or before the stated date.”

Ismaila S. Ceesay, president of the Gambia Teachers Union, explained that before the start of the scheme, an agreement was made on mode of payment.

He added that it was agreed that payment would be done on termly basis (first, second and third term basis) but everything had paralysed lately.

“The mode of payment has been paralysed and not coming the way it is expected,” he said, adding that instead of schools receiving their money on time,payments would be delayed until the following term.

The delay, he went on, has been a concern to many schools, saying “schools are suffering” at the moment.

“We want to see that the education system is put on a sound footing but Government’s attitude towards education is a cause for concern,” Mr Ceesay said.

According to him, a lot of engagements had been carried out to remedy the situation but said not much improvement had been made. “Things started getting worse from last academic year,” he said, adding that payments were not done in order.”

He pointed out that the unit costs that were agreed from the inception still remain the same while cost of materials are increasing. “Where do you expect schools to tap money from when the School Improvement Grant is not forthcoming to run the schools?” he questioned.

Head teachers have been pre-financing, borrowing money and dipping in their pockets,” he added, saying that most schools “are struggling” to even get chalks.

COB/09/07/23

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