13 May 2019

Gambia: College Lecturers On Sit-Down Strike

Lecturers at The Gambia College are firm with their decision of not to report to class, if all their demands are not met. The Lecturers demands include a fifty percent salary increment and no more delay in the payment of their salaries. This is the second sit-down strike the academic staff embarked on in just seven months; the first was September 2018 on the same matter.

Following a meeting held by the general membership of the College Academic Staff Association (GCASA) on the 9th May, 2019, the GCASA Executive wrote to inform the authorities that the general membership agreed to resume their sit-down strike with immediate effect, until the following conditions are met:

that April 2019 salaries, are paid;

that GCASA receive an assurance in writing that subsequent salaries will be paid on time, and that 50% salary increment be effected and paid as of January 2019.

Speaking to the principal of the College at his office regarding the situation, Abubacarr Jallow said salaries of lecturers has been paid and questioned the reasons for the strike. He highlighted how challenging it has been with them since the inception, but expressed optimism that things will be better. When asked whether lecturers' demands were met, he responded that it will be difficult, because the 50% salary increment initiated at the start of 2019, is meant only for Government civil servants who are within the integrated pay scale; that lecturers are excluded from this and quoted from the budget speech, to back his assertions.

However, Andrew Gomez, president of The Gambia College Academic Staff, clarified that not all lecturers were paid; that those receiving their salaries through the bank were yet to be paid. He challenged the principal's statement, saying that the 50% salary increment was mentioned by the Minister of information on different media platforms when he said the 50% salary increment is for all civil servants. He went on to say that Council wrote them a letter promising that the 50% they lobbied for, will be paid by the end of May with drawback; that there should be a written document to indicate that there will be no delay in the payment of their salaries; that otherwise, the situation remains the same. "The situation is no more bearable. Both Council and Government should do something about this. We thought this will be history but instead, it is repeating itself," he said.

Lecturers lamented that it hard been with them and their families, especially in this holy month of Ramadan.

Tijan Jallow, the president of the Student Teachers Association (STA), described the current situation as bad for the country. He called on the Ministry of High Education and Government, to come to the rescue of students.

Bakary Badjie, education minister of the students' union, expressed their disappointment about the issue but he said as a union they are going to meet and discuss how to react.

Badjie said the Government must pay attention to the college if they really want to develop the country because it is the epicenter where teachers, nurses, agriculturists and public health officers are trained.

"So if you neglect the college, you are neglecting national development. You are not in for national development. This is why if any government that comes pays attention to the college, the country would automatically develop. But if any Government comes and continues to neglect the college, we will automatically have a nation where people would be shouting and there would be no development," he said.

Ebrima Sambou, final year student and vice president of the students' union, said it is painful for lecturers to be in class without being paid and they are therefore calling on President Adama Barrow to remedy the situation if not, they would be very disappointed with his government.

"We are calling on the president to hold whoever is responsible for the failure of payment of the lecturers, because you can see that our college admin is really trying but it's like there is a problem somewhere and we want the president, since he is the head of state and we voted for him, to come out from his comfort zone and make sure that this problem is solved permanently," Sambou said.

Sambou implored President Barrow to step up and solve the problem in one-week time because they don't want to take certain steps as unionists. He also questioned why the biggest and oldest tertiary learning institution in the country is facing this problem while UTG, GTTI and MDI aren't grappling with the same issue when they are all Government institutions.

"Whenever there is failure in the system, they would blame teachers. When there is problem in the health system, they would blame the nurses, doctors and public health officers but then are they looking at the places where they are training them?" he said.

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