6 December 2012

Liberia: John Tamba - 'We Often Borrow Money From Neighbors to Keep the House Running'

Monrovia — Lorpu John Tamba teaches mathematics at an elementary school in Paynesville, a Monrovia suburb. He supports four children and his wife with his salary and they live in a small two-room house.

"I love the profession and I love being with the kids. I make $100 a month, which isn't enough to pay our monthly bills. This makes me sad every day.

"Sometime I want to consider resigning but when I think about the lack of jobs in the country I hold back. I have advocated for a raise but it is not forthcoming. $100 is not enough to make us a happy family.

"My partner also brings in $85 as a market-seller, but even with that we can't cover our monthly expenses. We have four children - Emmanuel 21, Peter 16, Toe 8 and Annie 2 - all of whom depend on us for their education and health care. We all sleep in the same room. Emmanuel and Peter are the only two kids that go to school at the moment. They go to public school which is virtually free, but we have to pay for materials.

"We have to deny ourselves many things in order to keep them going. Things are tough but we are doing everything in our capacity to keep the family going. The fact that I cannot live a decent life means I am living in hell.

"Since the war ended in Liberia, to get a good job is difficult. I graduated from the Teacher College but I can't get a well-paying job. The economy is hard. Sometimes I don't get paid on time. And we have been living this way for 15 years.

"After paying all the bills we are left with only $20 for emergencies. This is how we have been living for the past 15 years.

"The best news I have heard recently is that the government of Liberia has increased the budget on education for this year. If it is passed into law an elementary teacher with a C certificate will be earning at least $150.

"Will I be better off in a year's time? "This is a difficult question. If the government increases classroom teacher salaries, I will be better off. If the national leadership improves the economy; if the fight against corruption is increased and perpetrators are taken to court; if the prices on Liberia's staple rice reduce, including the prices of essential commodities, I will be much better off."

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