As Concerns grow Over Teachers Welfare… Sierra Leone Parliament Summons SLTU

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By Ralph Simeon Sesay – 18 August 2019

The Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Transparency and Accountability under the Chairmanship of Hon. Festus Lansana of Constituency 015, on Thursday 15th August 2019, summoned the Executive of the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union to appear before his Committee in Parliament.

The Chairman disclosed that they have summoned the SLTU amidst growing concerns from splinter teacher groups such as Concerned Teachers, Voice of Teachers etc. that the executive of the SLTU has reneged on their responsibility to address the welfare issues facing teachers across the country as they relate to medical, legal representation and bereavements etc.

Hon. Lansana also disclosed that they have also received concerns from the teachers that the SLTU executive is depriving teachers from using Hotel 5/10, which they noted is their property.

There are also accusations that there is no accountability and transparency as far the management of the hotel is concerned over the years.

Rogerland, a body of teachers in Norway, is also said to be providing huge funding towards the maintenance of the hotel.

The Transparency and Accountability Committee asked for a comprehensive response to the issues raised by the committee with tangible supporting documents and reminded the SLTU executive that they are under oath and hence any attempt to mislead the committee would have dire consequences.

The SLTU Executive was represented at the hearings by the President, Mr. Salieu Bangura, Mr.Alieu Deen Conteh, Assistant Deputy Secretary General, the Senior Assistant Secretary Welfare, Finance Officer, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh, Hotel Manager and Central One Secretary, Gender Desk Officer and Trustee East.

SLTU President, Mr.Salieu Bangura started the discussions by thanking the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for summoning them to account for their stewardship.

He explained the mandate of the SLTU and detailed their activities and programs over the years such as addressing  welfare, training and capacity development issues for teachers across the country.

Mr. Bangura dilated on the support of the executive to the Free Quality Education flagship project of the Government and assured them that negotiation between them and the government is in the concluding phase, and that they are hopeful that government will soon announce an appreciable pay package for teachers.

The SLTU President used the occasion to allay the fears of government that teachers would go on strike at the start of the new academic year and reiterated the fact that they are vanguards of the President’s Education flagship program and they are bent on seeing it succeed.

Hotel 5/10 Manager, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh started the ball rolling by explaining to the committee the processes for the management of the hotel.

He noted that a committee set up by the general membership is managing the hotel and submitting reports to the General Meetings of the Union held every three years.

He reacted to the issue of teachers not using the hotel and told the committee that teachers across the country access the facilities at a reduced cost of Le100,000 while members of the public pay Le 250,000.

Mr. Jalloh presented to the committee registers of teachers bookings over the years into the hotel and refuted claims that they are getting support from Rogarland in Norway for the maintenance of the hotel.

Mr. Alieu Deen Conteh, Assistant Secretary General,  SLTU spoke on the union’s relationship with Rogarland, a teacher union body in Norway and intimated the committee that Rogarland between 1993 and 1995, provided ninety thousand United States dollars (US$ 90,000) to support the building of the administrative block of the SLTU and that the structure has been named after them.

Mr. Conteh further took the Committee through evidences to show that the SLTU has spent huge sums of monies in bereavements, medical and litigation issues on behalf of their membership for the past years.

On medicals, he explained to the committee that the SLTU in 2018 undertook the cost for two breast cancers for female teachers at St. Joseph and St. Phillips Primary Schools in Freetown respectively to the tune of millions of Leones.

He also provided supporting documents to show that the SLTU had provided legal representations through Tana & Co and several other law firms for teachers in Kenema; Mr Browne who was docked for murder and Mabinty Kamara of Sierra Leone Church Primary School in Bonthe   who was also charged with manslaughter and many others.

Other members of the SLTU present at the hearings, including the Gender Desk Officer, spoke on the strides of the union around capacity development and disclosed that currently, the union is providing bursaries for 101 female teachers that are pursuing various educational courses at various institutions in the country.

Senior Assistant Secretary in charge of welfare at the union also explained the union’s efforts over the years to facilitate the payment of loans by various banks to teachers.

The SLTU, he noted, normally guarantees such loans. He also told the committee that over the years the teachers would sign up to various insurance schemes without notifying them, but they would always come in handily to solve any issues that might arise between the teachers and the insurance companies.

The Parliamentary Sub-Committee later raised few issues around the various presentations made by the SLTU executive.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Festus Lansana commended the executive for the brilliant presentations made by the SLTU Executive and expressed his disappointment that the SLTU executive has not been communicating their activities and programs to the general membership.

This, he noted, is responsible for the rancor that has permeated the general membership over the years.

He strongly called for robust public relations strategy by the SLTU executive with a view to addressing the numerous concerns by the membership.

Other members of the Parliamentary Committee raised several issues around teachers’ recruitment and placement and also noted that most of the facilities, especially around legal representation, medicals and bereavements are only enjoyed by teachers in big towns and cities.

They called for the SLTU to concentrate on teachers in the periphery of the country.

The SLTU has over the years come under bashing for mismanaging funds of the union and for also not speaking to the welfare concerns of their members.

This has over the years led to the creation of splinter groups like the Concerned Teachers, Voice of Teachers and the rest.

The move by the Parliamentary Sub–Committee to scrutinize the activities of the SLTU was viewed as commendable and this, many say, will put to rest concerns that the SLTU is unchecked with regards the management of funds meant for the SLTU and the general welfare of teachers.

 

 

 

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