Dear Editor – May I be granted space in your column to voice out a concern which is crucial that people be made aware of.
Reading from a concerned teacher’s media article in the papers has prompted me to share a similar experience faced by a friend who consoled with me how she was tossed carelessly about by the education authority of the Honiara City Council.
My friend, with a teaching diploma and five years of experience behind her, was suddenly cut off from employment in 2014 when the teaching postings came up short of her name.
Horrified and bewildered, and without the faintest idea on why she was being dismissed, she sought her principal for answers.
But, like her, he too was in the dark, so she went to see the CEO of the HCC’s education authority (EA).
His only reply was that she was terminated pending investigations on allegations against her made by her school and that a letter had been furbished to her school listing the reasons for her dismissal.
She went back to her principal and re-checked with him but he maintained his earlier claim that he knew nothing of anything that would warrant her dismissal and denying having sighted any letter from the EA.
Baffled more than ever, my distraught friend then sought an audience with the Ministry’s Director of Teaching Service.
She was received and she poured out her case. She was advised to return to her EA’s office or to the CEO and request to have her files shown her.
This she did, and lo and behold, when shown her folder, there was no letter in it as earlier alleged by the CEO.
Incidentally, someone at the EA office told her that her letter was with an officer who just so happens to be touring the provinces and that she would have to wait for his return before anything could be done further with her case.
Nothing prepared her for the 4 months she had to wait for the officer to return from his visit.
May I add here that the first month into waiting, during one of her follow-up checks, an officer at the EA informed her that the officer she was waiting for had just taken his holiday and won’t be back to work for two months.
My poor friend bided her time, all the while being unemployed and scraping by odd jobs to keep her neck above water.
Well, after four months of waiting, in one of her numerous follow-ups, she was told that the officer had been transferred to Auki and that he has informed the EA office that her letter was no longer in his possession.
She was again given some advice, this time she was told to write a letter stating that she had not received nor sighted any purported letter and that she requests that a copy be made and provided her.
She followed this and submitted to the EA office. Sad to say, my friend spent the remainder of the year following up but to no avail.
Beginning of last year, she found that she could no longer keep up with the financial demands of living in Honiara so she returned home and did volunteer teaching.
Mid-year break last year and she decided to come back again and try her luck following up on her case.
It took her three visits at the EA office before someone eventually recalled her case and checked her files.
Odd, but however not surprising enough, she was told that her appeal letter was nowhere to be seen.
So, my friend was now facing a scenario involving two letters; one being of mysterious origins and the other, which she had written herself, vanishing into thin air.
Despite several attempts to have anyone at the EA explain and bring some sense into her case, her moves all met dead-ends and no further details could be salvaged to shed light on her questions.
After three months of running here and there, being passed around from one officer to another, all being dead-ends, and having exhausted her budget, she literally gave up and returned home, a wreck.
My friend’s testimony shocked me to the core and broke my heart.
But what intensifies the heat is that her case is not exceptional and I have learnt that there are many teachers who have faced or are facing the same demon with the HCC EA and have chewed on the same sour vine that my friend had the misfortune of chewing.
From a few accounts by teachers who have gone through the same grind, I’ve established that the education authorities are riddled with intra-networks bound by nepotism, cronyism, greed, money-mongering ideologies, and any other factor that boils down to victimising innocents.
Teachers just mysteriously have their names washed off the teaching list for no reasons whatever. And, when they pursue their cases with the very authorities they have entrusted their lives with, they find themselves chasing the end of the rainbow.
From all the accounts I’ve heard from affected teachers, it is notable that they are only left with the choice of ending up in court.
But then the trendy fact is that they do not have the substantial evidence required for a strong case.
They all say that their EAs are protected by an impregnable wall of silence to outsiders, and all efforts to gather information are strangled and choked, hence reducing their claims to mere hearsay.
Must I remind you all in the education authorities that you are there for the sole purpose of promoting education’s welfare in the country?
Such actions imply that you people are the wrong ones for the job. We need people with visions for the good of the country.
No wonder the government of the day is facing criticisms with its education policies.
The name DCCG is being made a scapegoat of by the public servants who are tasked to collectively support and drive the government’s policies.
No wonder recent audits unveiled a vast number of ghost names and accounts leeching of the Government’s coffers.
No wonder the country continues to be wrought by teacher problems.
The teachers tend to be scolded by the uninformed public because they are at the forefront.
But, the reality is that the people in their EAs are playing their own games which serve their own interests.
Shame on you. Your selfish activities victimise teachers. You are playing with human lives here.
I am not privy to the actual countless lives that have been destroyed by your actions, but I can guestimate that they now number in the thousands.
Most of them suffer in silence and their cases grow cold and die.
Most, if not all, of them are human beings with families and children to feed, and they have been rendered handicapped to do so because of the selfish actions of the few in their EAs.
I close off with a call on the so-called responsible authorities.
This issue includes you, so I suggest you pull your socks up and address this.
Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, do the necessary investigations and find the individuals who are corrupting our education sector.
The country does not individuals with personal agendas who ruin the lives of others and threaten the integrity of the system.
The advancement of Solomon Islands into the twenty first century is hampered by many things, and this is most certainly one of them.