Sierra Leone Ministry of Education on the Rumoured Deletion of 7,000 Teachers from Pay Vouchers
Within the last few days, rumours were being circulated that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is going to delete over 7,000 Teachers from government pay vouchers because those Teachers were considered “Ghost Teachers”. (Photo: Cross section of teachers not fully verified)
We, at the Ministry of Education, consider this as total misinformation and part of the dissemination of such misinformation carried out by some Executive members of the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) to all Teachers across the country. The Ministry would now like to share with members of the public how this whole thing came about:
The Government of Sierra Leone and its development partners, particularly those partners that are focused on helping us improve on the standard of our education, decided that in order for the country to realize the full benefit of the resources that are being directed toward our education system, particularly in the area of improving the conditions of our Teaching force, we need to know the exact number of Teachers we have in the country. As a result, the Public Sector Reform Unit (PSRU), in the office of the President, contracted a private firm to conduct a nation-wide biometric registration exercise on all Teachers to ascertain the exact number that the government would be catering for.
At the conclusion of such exercise, the firm presented its findings in the form of a report that was presented to the Minister of Education and his team. In the report, among other things, it was stated that 7,761 Teachers that are currently on government payroll could not be verified. This represented 22% of our total Teaching force. The firm however maintained that the Teachers may have been legitimately employed but at the time of this registration exercise they either did not make themselves available or failed to submit relevant documentation that could prove that they were genuinely hired as Teachers.
The Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah, was the first to challenge those figures, stating that they were too alarming and therefore subject to further verification by his ministry. The Minister therefore suggested that a Task Force, comprising the staff of the firm that carried out the registration; his ministry’s staff and representative from the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) should conduct a follow up re-verification exercise that should last for 90 days. He asked that Heads of Schools and Proprietors be sufficiently notified so that they too could notify all Teachers on their lists.
During this second phase of verification, Teachers who refuse or do not make themselves available to be properly verified would eventually be deleted from the government pay vouchers, the Minister cautioned.
The SLTU Representative was given a soft copy of this report. Somehow, these representatives from the SLTU decided to send a message to all Teachers around the country, particularly those whose names are on the list for re-verification (7,761), notifying them that they have been maintained as “Ghost Teachers” and therefore their names are going to be deleted from the government pay voucher. One can therefore see why these Teachers would become restless and alarmed about this development.
In a meeting held by the SLTU with a good many of those Teachers whose names needed to be verified, the Director of Education, Inspectorate, Mr. Mohamed Sillah Sesay, clarified this point and assured the Teachers that the ministry of Education has no desire to delete the names of Teachers from the government pay vouchers at this time. He also assured them that their salaries for April will be paid without trouble.
It is important for the public to know that those Teachers who were physically present during the biometric registration exercise and were given registration slips to prove that they were actually reached by the staff of this firm may not necessarily fall under the category of those Teachers who would be classified as “Verified” if the Teachers in question did not submit relevant documentation to show proof of being legally hired by the Ministry of Education. Therefore, while they may argue that they were present on site at the time of the registration exercise, the fact would still remain that they cannot be classified as legitimate Teachers until they can produce the required documentation to that effect. The 90 days re-verification exercise will eventually clear this doubt.
As a Ministry, we want to assure the public that we care so much about the conditions of our Teachers and therefore would not subject them to situations that will further exacerbate the difficult economic situation under which they currently operate.
As the Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Education, I have made two appearances on Television and have had three radio discussions on this same issue all in the name of trying to set the records straight and allay the fears of our Teaching force.
We will work with the SLTU to further strengthen the communication between the two entities and reaffirm our strong commitment, as a ministry, to improving the conditions of service of our Teachers across the country. We want to further apologize for any inconvenience this miscommunication may have caused our Teachers and their dependents.
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