The palaver between ASA and education minister
The tension simmering between the Academic Staff Association of Fourah Bay College (ASA-FBC) and the Minister of Education, Science, and Technology is a cause for concern and those authorities concerned must not allow the palaver to drag on indefinitely. (Photo: Minkailu Bah, Minister of Education, Science, and Technology)
It is true that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. In this case, it is the poor students who have invested so much to acquire a certificate in that noble institution that will suffer the consequences should any strike take place at this crucial stage of their academic work.
We say so because final exams are just around the corner and students are spending sleepless nights to confront those exams. Imagine what would happen should there be a setback as they approach the end of this academic year!
Indeed, we have been following with keen interest the sad drama ever since the lecturers issued a 21-day strike notice in respect of an improvement in their condition of service.
We believe the strike notice was sent out for the attention of the government and in particular the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who currently serves as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone of which Fourah Bay College is a component.
In the past, when such issues arose concerning pay condition, a dialogue is effected between both parties – the government and the aggrieved party.
It was not a matter of mudslinging between the individual minister and the association, or one government functionary in confrontation with the affected party. In most cases, a healthy compromise was often reached between the employing authority and the employee/s. Even if the strike was effected, both parties must arrive at an amicable solution to the deadlock.
In this particular instance, it appeared the education minister, Dr. Minkailu Bah, himself a former lecturer of the same institution, has personalized the ASA issue and believes he can change the course of event by personally attacking the lecturers on radio.
Too foolish and arrogant of the minister to have gone to that length!
Insulting the FBC lecturers who had presented their demands which they considered legitimate does not lead to a solution of the problem.
What obtained in the past, like we pointed out earlier, was for the minister or the relevant body to invite the aggrieved person/s to a negotiating table for the purpose of thrashing out any misunderstanding arising out of any strike action. It might take time but a workable solution would be reached at the end of the day.
However, the present antagonistic posture of the minister does not augur well for any meaningful dialogue.
Already, ASA has threatened court action should the minister fail to retract or substantiate his slanderous statements against its members, some of whom he has accused of immoral conduct.
How can a responsible minister behave thus?
We have heard some sympathizers of government blaming the lecturers of being unreasonable in their demands.
We do agree that 500% increment in their pay package could be a bit high considering the state of our economy but when a government decides to pay an individual worker Le 48 million monthly salary, who would blame the lecturers for demanding such increase in their take-home pay?
It is our view as an independent medium, that the education minister has only added salt to injury, a source of embarrassment to the head of state.
In the light of the foregoing, we suggest that the minister apologizes to ASA and either invites them to the negotiating table and dialogue over their ultimatum, or respond directly to their demands.
This is our position, as a medium!
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