By Omar Bah
The Gambia’s vice president has threatened disciplinary action against hundreds of teachers who have gone on a sit-down strike.
“All those who are involved in the sit-down strike will be victimised if they refuse to report to school by the 28th September, 2018. We will use the law. We have plans to replace you with retired teachers because we will not allow a parallel union to the GTU,” Ousainu Darboe was quoted as saying.
The group,“Teachers for Change”, embarked on a nationwide strike for the first time in over three decades for what they say is the government’s failure to honour their demands which include a 100% pay hike.
In a meeting with the teachers at his office on Tuesday, Darboe reportedly asked them what kind of change they wanted.
“We told him we want a change where teachers will be comfortable at their work places to be able to effectively deliver,” the group said in a statement shared with The Standard.
However, according to them, the vice president expressed his dissatisfaction at the refusal of the Teachers for Change to end their sit-down strike.
They said the VP also expressed his disappointment over the teachers’ decision to reveal their first meeting with him on social media. “I saw what you wrote on the social media that your position remains the same. We have monitors going around and we will terminate your services if you are not found at your schools. The choice is yours, so you decide”.
In response, Abdoulie Jallow, the secretary general of Teachers for Change reminded the VP that social media is the only means of rapid communication with their members.
Mr Jallow further told the VP that they were not expecting him to direct threats at them.
The VP reacted by saying the group’s strike was unjustified because the agreements in the resolution should expire in October. “Can you strike for something that should be done in October, let’s be realistic”?
Speaking further, he reportedly said: “These are not threats. We are just 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… ”
They expressed their “utmost disappointment” at the “lack of concern” from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.
“The taskforce wants to inform all teachers that 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.”