The teacher exodus to Botswana

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 22, 1999

Earlier this year over 80 teachers left the country for Botswana in southern Africa. The African country has once again advertised for another batch of teachers. Only recently, too, the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean joined in advertising. We asked the man/woman-in-the-street what the government could do to stem the wave of migration to foreign countries in view of the country's economic situation. Their views follow:

Prabudyal Sattaur

Prabudyal Sattaur - clerk: `I think that the first thing is that government has to look at the welfare of teachers. If the economy is embarrassing at this time then we have to look at other means such as market supplements which could be taken care of by agencies such as SIMAP and non-governmental organisations. Government will, however, have to facilitate this process. Knowing of the economic situation, the GTU has to also play its role through encouraging thrift savings through its credit union. It has to devise schemes through which it would be able to give small loans with repayments made over a period of time. Where government could help, such as making available lands for teachers' housing schemes, it should do so. It could grant duty-free concession for the importation of cars for senior teachers like they do for police inspectors. I think right now we have to look at how we can keep our teachers because the key to development depends on education and human resource development.'

Lester Lewis

Lester Lewis - painter: `We agree that the teacher's salary is very important. But given the situation of the country's economy, we have to think in terms of how we can stem the flow of our teachers from migrating by offering them not only better salaries but improved working conditions and incentives. If teachers live away from the area where they teach, they should be given transportation allowances. In many cases a huge chunk of the teacher's salary goes to paying for transportation. Headteachers, deputies and teachers who would have served for a number of years should also qualify for duty-free concessions. Teachers in training should be given their salaries. Other allowances which should be considered are clothing, house and meal allowances. Something has to be done urgently because we would not only lose teachers to foreign countries we would lose them to better paying professions right here in Guyana. Some have turned to trading and some are operating their own mini-buses and taxis.'

Compton Dyal

Compton Dyal - ex-teacher/farmer: `Salaries are very important incentives. Granting duty-free concession for means of transportation for senior teachers and a better system of promotion and remuneration should be granted to teachers based on years of service and grades of schools at which they teach. Because of the administrative structure in a school there may be no room for upward mobility but teachers with years of experience and eligible for promotion should be paid for the years of service. That teacher should not earn the same as a teacher who would have just graduated from teachers' training college. Allowances and incentives should also be given to teachers being transferred from one location to another.'

Bridget King

Bridget King - ex-nurse/homemaker: `Teachers and other categories of public servants need better remuneration package to upkeep their families. Regardless of how committed to the profession a person may be, the fact is, every service you turn to, has a bill attached. The only way to retain our teachers is to increase their pay. Teachers are like nurses who want to go on to the University of Guyana but they cannot do so because when they take a loan the salaries they earn on leaving the university are so meagre that they prefer not to. Many go to other countries with the intention of making money and returning home. They make their money and they hardly return to the country that educated them in the first instance.'

Fazlur Sattaur

Fazlur Sattaur - businessman: `I think that the main issue is salaries. It is very important to the teacher and the profession. At this point in time when the education system is crying out for improvement, government should make education a priority. Teachers serving over a number of years, for example after every five years should be given increases in salaries and incentives. It would be something to look forward to and others would be encouraged to join the profession and to stay in it. Headteachers of schools, senior teachers should be among public servants who are granted duty-free concessions for cars and other means of transportation. Imagine the headmistress of a senior secondary school in the city cycling to school each day. We have to restore respect to the profession.' \

Cleveland Davidson

Cleveland Davidson - public health officer/pastor: `The first thing that comes to mind is an increase in wages and salaries. But how could the country afford that when the economy is not performing. Apart from salaries, however, conditions of work must be greatly enhanced. Lots of teachers now teach because of their love for teaching and their love for children not for the level of remuneration and because there is someone else there to support them. Affordable housing offered them by government could be an incentive. The same way Banks DIH and GUYSUCO can use lands and housing as incentives I think government can do the same. We need to find innovative ways not only to retain our teachers but our nurses and other professionals.'

Royston King

Royston King - public relations officer: `Regardless of what system or systems are put in place the bottom line would be economics. If our teachers are not adequately remunerated and cannot take care of their families in a decent manner with good housing, medical expenses taken care off, affordable transportation and adequate library facilities they will continue to migrate and to look for better conditions of work. Even if they are given lands to build houses and loans to build their houses, if they do not earn a decent salary, how will they pay back their loans? Moving to greener pastures becomes a priority instead of being patriotic. When a teacher leaves the country for another he or she is not necessarily concerned about the education system there or how developed the country is. The teacher is concerned about making money and being comfortable.'

Juliet Rose

Juliet Rose - housewife: `I do not like the idea of our teachers leaving Guyana to go to other countries to give of their service when it was Guyanese taxpayers that helped to get them educated. Government has to seriously address this issue. Government in consultation with the teachers' union and other interested parties would have to look at ways and means to improve salaries, working conditions and incentives for teachers so that they could remain in the country. Government has to act now or we would not have experienced teachers in our schools.'

Richie McNaughton

Richie McNaughton - regional councillor/Upper Mazaruni resident: `Hinterland and riverain communities need trained teachers. In the Upper Mazaruni River most of the teachers are not trained. Teachers are not motivated to stay because their salaries are too small and they cannot cope with the cost of living in the interior. The cost there is high because every commodity has to be air freighted there and one pound by air costs $80. For instance one gallon of gasoline is $1,000. The Regional Democratic Council of Region Seven has been asked by teachers to assist them in allowances and in making representation on their behalf. We cannot pay the teachers. We can only make the representation but government has to act. Government has to increase hardlying allowances for teachers or we would be left without.'

Alfred Rambarran

Alfred Rambarran - taxi driver: `Give the teachers lands to build their homes, give them duty-free concessions to acquire their own means of transportation. They have families, too. Other countries are offering free travel tickets for them and their family and we cannot even make available money to pay our own teachers after investing heavily in them. The teachers should be paid enough to be in a position to pay a mortgage at the end of the month and to live a decent life. They should not be allowed to migrate until they would have repaid their loan. Teachers should also benefit from a subsidised medical scheme. I think a health programme is very important. The Ministry and the GTU must come up with firm recommendations which could ease the migration of our teachers. Other countries are reaping our benefits.'