Teachers in Sierra Leone have had their pay rise blocked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Despite the fact that teachers can earn as little as US$50 per month in Sierra Leone which is wholly inadequate to sustain one person, let alone to provide for an entire family, an IMF intervention earlier in the summer has prevented the government from paying a negotiated 40–50 per cent pay increase.
Davidson A. Kuyateh, the General Secretary of Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU), said: “The conditions in public schools are so bad that parents who can afford it are opting for private schools. Class sizes are anything from 50 to 120; in rural areas the buildings are in poor condition, there is often no drinking water or any running water at all.”
“One of our other big problems is that even the public schools are not run by the government but by agencies, particularly Catholic and Muslim organisations, who often recruit people to teach with no qualifications. Some of the recruits have only completed a primary school education themselves.”
Kuyateh added that the money sent by international donors is rarely spent on teachers. A large amount of the funds go on employing foreign consultants and project managers who are paid a vast amount more than teachers. Meanwhile the potential wealth of Sierra Leone – its fertile agricultural land and its mineral wealth like bauxite, iron ore and gold – are being exploited by multinational corporations with scarcely any benefit to the people in that country.
Outlining what would improve the situation for education in Sierra Leone, Kuyateh said: “Three things are important: ending the process whereby private agencies recruit unqualified teachers, paying teachers properly, and offering them professional development training.”
“The SLTU is talking to the government about our promised pay rise. If all else fails, strike action will be the only alternative,” warned Kuyateh.