Schools are still empty as teachers all over Gabon have decided to remain on strike until every thing is done to save the crumbling educational system.
Since the 6th of October, more than 15,000 teachers have been on strike. They have demanded better labour environment and increased salaries. It is however reported that government representatives have began discussions with the teacher’s union representatives to resolve the issue. Pierre Njuemãmba, chief of staff at the Ministry of Education said the talks began on the 14th of October.
West Africa regional education specialist at UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vigdis Cristofoli has urged the Gabonese government that bringing the strike to an end is critical: ‘Long-lasting strikes disrupt children’s education so much that they cannot pass their exams. This can lead to high repetition rates.’ Two out of every five people in Gabon are under the age of 15, according to a government census 10 years ago. Though 96-percent of school-aged children are enrolled in primary school, 30-percent of them must repeat school years, according to 2008 UN data.
Moussounda Gean-goen, a striking primary school teacher was quoted as saying, ‘We have decided to stay on strike because the education system in Gabon is almost on the floor; teachers are badly paid, badly housed and badly transported, we cannot continue like this.’
Reports claim that this battle for teachers’ welfare has been going on for more than a decade now; Gabonese teachers’ unions have fought for better conditions. With the depreciation of the local currency in the early 1990’s and currently rising prices of food and fuel, life has become even more difficult for teachers who are the most affected by the rising cost of living because of low salaries.