Daniel Ngong Wango, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School, Group II, Bastos, Yaounde, talks on the challenges of today's Cameroonian teachers.
The theme of this year's World Teachers' Day is "Value teachers, improve their status." Do you think it addresses the current concerns of Cameroonian teachers?
The theme is a good one. If applied to the letter, it will help improve the status of teachers because it takes into consideration so many issues like allowances, salaries, working conditions and environment, etc.
In your opinion, what is the major problem of Cameroonian teachers today?
It is the problem of remuneration. This is a worrying situation. Teachers are not well paid for the services they render. There is every need for employers - the State and private sector - to improve the status of teachers by increasing their salaries, ensuring that their allowances are paid and improving the prevailing conditions of work.
How do you assess the efforts so far made to improve the lot of teachers?
Some effort has been made in the public sector to refurbish structures, construct classrooms, while more Teacher Training Colleges are being opened to train teachers. There is a programme for the automatic advancement of teachers unlike in the past when they had to follow up files. This is already working, and is a good thing.
Concerning the status of primary teachers, most of them are still on contracts, not fully absorbed into the Public Service with all the privileges... .
The integration of primary teachers is a worrying situation. Some served for over 10 years under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, HIPC Initiative, before being recruited by the State. They have since put in 10 years on the Public Service payroll as contract teachers - that is, those who are not integrated or do not enjoy full Civil Service privileges. There is need for their status in the Public Service to be guaranteed. The unfortunate situation is that some of these teachers have already gone on retirement with low pension packages. For now, more than half of primary school teachers in the Public Service are not integrated.
What of retirement for contract teachers?
Contract primary school teachers go on retirement at 50 years, unlike their integrated colleagues who retire at 60. I understand they are plans to increase the retirement age of contract teachers to 55, but this remains to be seen. Some contract teachers served only for eight or 10 years and retired at 50. As a result, they are not entitled to any pension, which requires putting in at least 20 years to fully benefit. If this year's World Teachers' Day theme is fully implemented, then the future of Cameroonian teachers will be bright.