Members of the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) have launched a campaign for a decent living wage for all school teachers and education workers, writes Education International.
Professional teachers currently earn as little as US$100 per month – which is an inadequate sum to survive on in a country where food prices and inflation have rocketed in recent years.
To make matters worse for those teachers who live and work in rural areas, they must travel for hours at a time to an administrative center – a journey which can cost up to half their salary – in order to collect their pay.
Just as in many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa which are rich in natural resources, its population remains very poor.
Ambassador Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson, the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) said:
"We need to act now because the present situation in our Liberia is so tragically ironic. Here is a country with relatively small population but endowed with huge natural resources, including oil. Yet the major indices of human development are most alarming: high unemployment, extremely high infant mortality rate, widespread poverty, high rate of illiteracy, inadequate schools and even more inadequate health centers, growing inequality and insecurity. Then there is the corruption so rampant that our country is now listed as "one of the most corrupt in the world". In a word we are a very rich country but with a very poor people."
More than 85 per cent of the Liberian population live below the poverty line while multinational corporations make huge profits from the country's resources, which include iron ore and rubber, and are now buying up licenses to explore potentially massive offshore oil reserves.
The NTAL has documented the experience of teachers in Liberia who work in overcrowded classrooms with minimal resources and facilities. Administrators have to dig into their own pockets to buy basic necessities such as chalk.
The government claims to be committed to education for all and has abolished school fees for primary age children. However, no resources have been provided by the government to make up the shortfall in income.
NTAL President, Ellen Varfley, said:
"NATL has been in existence since 1938. Our union has no negotiating rights. Teachers cannot afford to pay dues and we have no office to do our work. We have struggled through two civil wars and are working in appalling conditions. We need basic facilities if we are to function."
The NTAL is campaigning for 25 per cent of Liberia's GDP to be spent on education.