Following a meeting held between the task force representing Teachers for Change and Network of Mission Teachers on one hand and the Vice President Ousainou Darboe on the other, the stalemate took a drastic turn as the VP threatened to sack all the teachers if they fail to bring the recent sit-down strike to a stop.
During the meeting the Vice President as if not adequately briefed asked the teachers “what change do you actually want”. Alhassan Ceesay of TFC told the VP that they want change in the profession of teachers. “We want a positive change where teachers will be comfortable at their work places so as to ensure they deliver effectively and efficiently”.
The assistant secretary General of the TFC Taskforce, Ebrima D. York also answering to the VP’s question said “It is a pleasure to answer this question. I know you as someone who have been advocating for change all your life, so I will be very happy to state the change we want. We want a friendly teaching and learning environment. We want to see that teachers are well represented and their welfare upheld”. He went further to dilate on the challenges teachers are facing adding; “it is because of the challenges faced by teachers that we find it easy to mobilize all teachers”.
The vice president expressed dissatisfaction with both Task force for refusing to end the sit-down strike following an earlier meeting he had with them. “After our meeting I saw what you wrote on social media that your position remains the same. I am disappointed with the step you took” he said. He went further by threatening all those involved in the sit-down strike will be victimized if they refuse to report to school by the 28th September. “We will use the law. We have plans to replace you with retired teachers. We will not allow a parallel union to the GTU” the vice president said. VP Darboe emphasized that all those involved in the sit-down strike will be terminated from the teaching profession if they continue their sit-in strike. “We have monitors going around and we will terminate your services if you are not found at your school. The choice is yours so you decide” he said.
The Secretary General of the TFC Abdoulie Jallow told the meeting that their means of communication as a group is through social media (WhatsApp). That was the reason they wrote to their members regarding what happened and to express disappointment with the threats they heard. “I think my colleagues here heard it very well. To be sincere with everyone here, I was expecting solutions to our demands and not threats” he said.
The vice president said that the strike is unjustifiable because the agreements in the resolution expired in October. “Can you strike for something that should be done in October? In response, Alhassan Ceesay told the VP that the first agreement was to expire on 31st May. “A day before that we had a meeting with MoBSE where they made it clear that our demands cannot be met.” Ceesay said
Johnson Mendy, Secretary General of Mission teachers also addressed the meeting and asked the VP if he meant that Mission teachers should work out their own issues. VP Darboe replied saying “I did no say that, I did not talk about mission teachers today”. Mr.Mendy expressed his dissatisfaction with some of the challenges faced by teachers especially mission teachers.
Before the meeting ended VP Darboe told the teachers that what he told them was not a mere threat. “We are also telling you what we plan to do. You threatened to go on strike and you did.” “If you are terminated then you can take us to court” he said. He assured TFC taskforce that the plans laid will be implemented. “In Jammeh’s time you dare not do this
Shortly after meeting the vice president, the Taskforce for Teachers for Change called on an emergency meeting and expressed their utmost disappointment. “We expected more officials from our line Ministry (MoBSE) to be present where our issues are to be discussed but only the Deputy Permanent Secretary was present. It shows lack of concern from our ministry with regards to our problem and demands. We believe that our demands should be treated well through dialogue and negotiations”. The Taskforce remain committed to their sit-in and states “our position remains the same. Our strike continues. We urge all teachers to maintain the unity and cooperation among us. We believe that our issues could have been handled in a better way. This is a crucial moment for our profession and until we stand firm, none of our demands will be met”.