May 22, 2013, 9:37 AM
It is most distressing to read of the case of Abdoulie Conteh, the teacher who was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of D2000 in default to serve six months imprisonment for stealing at the Kanifing Magistrates' Court. He accepted responsibility for diverting, for his own use, D13,150; money paid by students of Fowlis as examination fees. We must however be careful to temper our response to this disappointing case. There is of course no justification for what this individual has done but we know very little of the circumstances that drove him to commit his crime. What was said in court was that Mr. Conteh had stolen the money to pay his sons school fees. School fees are expensive and this is a tragic case. This man, like so many others in The Gambia, simply wanted the best education for his son. That he has been driven to bringing not only his own name but that of his profession into disrepute is a terrible thing.
It is no secret in this country that teachers, though they are qualified, are paid low wages. It is also no secret that very often these wages will not be paid to them on time. As a result there are teachers all over the country who are struggling to make ends meet and feed their families. This situation must be addressed. These people are qualified to educate our children and, in doing so, ensure the future prosperity of the nation. This is a great and noble job. They work diligently and should be remunerated for it. Is it fair to think that members of the National assembly are paid two and half times what they are? There is no doubting the good work done in the National Assembly by the democratically elected members but is it not on a par with the great work done by teachers? Similarly those involved in the nursing profession who work tirelessly to tend the sick. Their wages are also around two and a half times less than those of National Assembly Members. Perhaps it is time we began to remunerate our professionals adequately so that they can at least afford to support their families.
As we say there are plenty teachers and other professionals in positions of trust who are struggling to make ends meet. They do not however succumb to the temptation to steal as Abdoulie Conteh has. His actions left him at the full mercy of the courts and he must accept his punishment with good grace. Unfortunately his rash actions may leave his family in further financial trouble but he has made his bed and so must lie in it.
The fate of all the other struggling civil servants who do not disgrace themselves by breaking the law of the land is in the hands of the government. Their contribution to the socio-economic development of this nation must be recognised and proper wages paid to them on time. When inferior wages are paid for work done then the value of that work diminishes in the eyes of the one carrying out. We cannot allow this to continue with our teachers, nurses and other diligent servants of the people, government and future of The Gambia.