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SLTU elections: over 35,000 teachers & the public are concerned!

SPECIAL COMMENTARY

By Victoria Saffa

The Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) is currently conducting its regional and zonal elections and will soon hold its presidential election, which will usher in President Abdulai Koroma’s successor. Koroma is completing his second term by the end of March.

Report reaching this medium revealed that two Vice Presidents of the Union, Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Bangura and Mr. Joseph A.S. Wandoh, are aspiring for the coveted position of President of the Union. The winner will lead some 35,000 teachers and determine the level of efficiency in the teaching profession in the country. Now let’s look at the academic background of the two leading contenders for the post of President of the Union.

The SLTU Vice President for Western Region, who doubles as Principal of the Sierra Leone Muslim Congress Senior Secondary School, Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Bangura, holds a Teachers’ Certificate, Bachelor of Art Degree and postgraduate Diploma in Education from Fourah Bay College. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), as well as several overseas certificates in Education.

The other contender, Mr. Joseph A.S. Wandoh, is Principal of United Methodist Church Secondary School in Bo. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Development from the St. Clement University, then hosted by the Institute of Advanced Management and Technology (IAMTECH). Research by this writer has revealed that both candidates have been in the field of teaching for over 20 years and boast of a wealth of experience in the service.

Many may ask of what significance is the SLTU election to non-members. Well, the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union is central to both the development and collapse of education in the country. Any decision taken by the Union regarding education will either determine the growth of the sector or its demise. Therefore an election of such nature should be the concern of all Sierra Leoneans because having the wrong person at the rudder will not only spell doom for the teaching profession, but the education sector in the country as a whole. The election should therefore not be conducted outside the reproach of Sierra Leoneans; the credentials of all the presidential aspirants must be brought to the public sphere. Their moral fiber and fortitude must be thoroughly assessed, as well as their aptitude to lead an important group as the SLTU.  The candidates for the presidency of the Union must be brought to a debate to tell their members, and indeed all Sierra Leoneans, what they have to offer in terms of moving the Union forward, and how they hope to curb the plethora of problems bedeviling the teaching profession and the whole education sector in the country, thus resulting to what has now been termed the “falling standard in Sierra Leone’s educational system”.

Gauging the minds and hearts of teachers from various schools across the country, they expressed with passion that such a position as President of the SLTU should be occupied by somebody of a middle age that is full of dynamism and gumption to champion the cause of Sierra Leonean teachers. The teachers would want to see an outspoken and capable President that is willing to sacrifice his time and energy towards addressing the problems besetting teachers and the teaching profession. One that is committed to improve the already fallen education standard, for which many parents and guardians are not enthused about.

Listen to one of them, a veteran teacher with nearly 30 years in the teaching field: “I am very much concerned as to who will eventually lead the Union after the expiration of the mandate of the current SLTU President, Mr. Abdulai Koroma. I beseech all teachers who will be taking part in the election to vote for somebody who will serve the interest of all teachers in the nook and cranny of Sierra Leone.”

A teacher in Bo, who has been in the field for over 20 years, commented: “I have known the two presidential aspirants for a very long time. I have known Mr. Wandoh for the past 20 years, six years of which as Vice President of the SLTU in the Southern Province. To be candid enough, he has not contributed significantly towards the advancement of the Union; he did not do enough to change the status of teachers and the teaching profession in the South.

“For M.S. Bangura, I met with him after he assumed office as Vice President of the SLTU for the Western Area. If voting will be based on merit and ability to deliver, then I’ll have no hesitation to vote in Mr. Bangura. He is simply the better candidate of the two. I had witnessed an occasion where he was articulating teachers’ issues with the government. He has a passion for the teaching profession and cares about the welfare of the ordinary teacher. He is blessed with enormous diplomacy skills that will be key in negotiating with the authorities for the welfare of teachers to be maximized.”

A female teacher, in her comment, remarked: “We want the media to host the two aspirants in a public debate so that each would have the opportunity of presenting his manifesto to the teachers and the Sierra Leonean public. There are so many issues that teachers want answers to; issues like the falling standard of education in the country and delay in the payment of salaries to newly approved teachers. We want the aspirants to tell us how they hope to address these issues.”

Stay tuned for updates on the presidential election of the SLTU.