#Article (Archive)

A Perennial Problem Which Must be Resolved

Sep 10, 2008, 4:53 AM

It is extremely distressing to read that principals all over The Gambia are having such difficulty in filling vacancies at their schools for the coming academic year. What is very clear from the story we carry in today's National News is that something must be done to address the problem and very quickly. There are a number of factors at play. Firstly the old issue of pay has stubbornly refused to go away. The salaries on offer to teachers in public schools are simply not adequate to meet the rising cost of living. This means many are being attracted into the private sector. Secondly there is the issue of rural to urban migration. This is a more difficult issue to tackle but not an impossible one. If teachers serve a fixed term in any given area and then wish to move then they should be allowed. Also, greater incentives must be given to teachers to serve in the rural areas. If this happens then the problem of rural to urban migration might not be so much of a problem. If teachers wish to serve in the provinces near their place of birth they must be allowed and encouraged to do so. With regard to the first problem our report states, "some of the incentives private schools offer for their teachers include fat allowances in respect of transport, housing and medical care and in this regard it is believed that private schools have been able to offer more attractive pay packages than public schools." Some principals in public schools have expressed fear that some of the newly qualified teachers from GambiaCollege may not report to their new schools of posting because of the low pay from the Government. "Some of these new teachers may receive higher pay in private schools than public schools," they stated.   It is difficult to critisise anybody who would be tempted to take a deal such as this rather than a public school job where many believe they will be left months without their basic pay aside at all from the lack of extra perks such as the ones mentioned above. Our reporter visited some schools in Region One and revealed that most private schools had conducted their interviews during the first week of August 2008 for their new teachers in the coming school academic year and were given their appointment letters. This is bad news because it means that we may already be too late to address this crisis in this current academic year.

This situation must be addressed and with all possible haste. Our children are the future leaders of this nation and we owe it to them to give them the best education we can through our public school system. Failure in this regard is not an option.

"Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth"

Margaret Thatcher