18 April 2014

Liberia: Life Hard for Teachers - Salary Wahala At Education Ministry

Monrovia — The Ministry of Education which has over the years seen protest from teachers and other education workers over unpaid salaries and other incentives is once again in the spotlight over salary arrears to some education workers.

Several Monitoring and Evaluation and County Planning Officers and other workers in the education sector of the various counties have expressed that the Ministry owes them over seven months in salary arrears.

In interviews with FrontPageAfrica, Isaac N. Boyah, Planning Officer, Sinoe County; Koiyan C. Kollie, Planning Officer, Lofa County, Stephen J. Toomay, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Grand Bassa County all expressed that due to the failure of the Ministry to pay their salaries for about eight months, they are finding life very difficult.

"We are finding life very hard, for nine months no payment, we have been walking up and down, we wrote the President, we wrote Senator Dallas Gueh who is the Senate head on Education, we wrote the Education Minister, but still we have not heard anything", Toomay, one of the affected Education Ministry workers told Frontpageafrica.

Toomay says his family is out of food and children not in school indicating that it is unfortunate to see Liberians treating others in such manner.

"We are tired walking around, we will soon go on the rampage, maybe that is what they like, we have taken our time running here and there, writing letters, nobody wants to listen to us", Boyah, Planning Officer for Sinoe County threatened.

Kollie, Planning Officer for Lofa County another affected MOE worker expressed that he was kicked out of where he resides by tenants as a result of his inability to pay rent due to lack of salary.

"They assigned me in Lofa County, my family here in Monrovia, I have to rent in Lofa, feed myself and also feed my family here in Monrovia and they have not paid me for seven months, how do we survive, I think they want us to just die" Kollie decried.

The affected group in a letter dated February 17, 2014 addressed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated that they are seeking an audience with the Liberian leader to explain their plight.

"The decentralization team of the Ministry of Education is pleased to extend compliments and wishes to seek an audience with you at your Foreign Affairs Office; at your convenient time to inform you about issues affecting the Ministry of Education decentralization Program and the staff", the letter stated. The group mentioned in the letter to the President the issues of salary arrears and clarity on their status.

The letter further stated: "Additionally, we intend to meet with you to acquaint you with a series of challenges confronting the decentralization Team of the Ministry of Education. Paramount among these challenges are seven months arrears and status of the seventy five (75) officers deployed in the fifteen counties of Liberia".

In another letter dated March 3, 2014 addressed to Hon. Dallas A. V. Gueh, Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, the affected workers stated "Hon. Gueh, while we hail the Government for this initiative, the Decentralization staffs in the various counties have not been paid for seven (7) months (August 1, 2013 up to present). Additionally, the status of the 75 officers deployed in the counties still remains unclear".

The education workers also wrote the Ministry of Education, Etmonia D. Tarpeh highlighting their plight. The group stated in the letter to Minister Tarpeh: "We extend our compliments and to have you informed officially about our salary arrears from the month of August 2013 up to date.

Madam Minister, with all due respect, we will also like for you to be informed that most of our officers in the leeward counties have been thrown out of their rooms due to their failure to settle their financial obligations".

In the communication signed by Prince Omenihu, the group appealed to the Minister to ensure that they are paid their salary arrears. "Kindly see reason to settle our arrears in a soonest possible time to enable us settle our financial obligations, and perform our official duties efficiently", the group appealed to the Education Minister.

The workers were employed as part of the Decentralization Plan of the Ministry of Education in line with the Education Act of 2011 and deployed in the various counties.

They were contracted to be paid by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) from the Education Pool Fund from August 2012 to July 2013 after which period they were to be placed on the Government of Liberia payroll.

D. Melvin Toe, one of the affected workers said after the completion of the one year contract period, the Ministry of Education informed them to go through the Civil Service Agency testing process to be absorbed on the payroll, which he said they adhered to.

Mr. Toe narrated that even after going through the process, the deputy Minister for Administration Edwin K. Minister Tetteh informed them to make available the names of five ghost workers each from their counties to be dropped from the payroll to enable the Ministry place their names on the payroll replacing the ghost names.

He said after identifying the ghost names, the Minister promised that their names will be placed on the payroll but that is yet to be done. When contacted via mobile, Atty. Ramses T. Kumbuyah, Deputy Minister for Administration did not respond up to press time.

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