Teachers union says ‘no’ to free transport

11Mar 2016
Lydia Shekighenda
The Guardian
Teachers union says ‘no’ to free transport

The Tanzania Teachers Union, Dar es Salaam regional office yesterday rejected a new free transport programme for public school teachers.

The Union describing it as “demeaning” and probably a mere political ploy since shuttling has never been cited as one of the major problems facing local educators.

The free transport scheme for teachers was recently initiated by Kinondoni district commissioner Paul Makonda and supported by the Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (DARCOBOA), which agreed to provide the service to teachers for free.

However, TTU’s Dar es Salaam regional secretary Abdallah Mkaula told The Guardian in an interview that teachers were not comfortable with the offer despite DC Makonda’s good intentions.

“The teachers are hesitant about this program because they were not consulted, and also because they have so many of their own unresolved grievances which they feel the government should prioritise ahead of a free-travel scheme,” Mkaula said.

He cited some of the grievances as low salaries and low teaching, leave and transfer allowances. He said some teachers in the region were supposed to go on annual leave in June and December last year, but were yet to be given their leave allowances.

Similarly, some teachers have retired and others have been transferred without being paid their dues, he said.

“I have never heard of any teacher complaining about transport in all the time I have held this post (regional secretary) since the establishment of this union,” Mkaula said. “That is not the most pressing problem for them…what they want is for their real demands to be fulfilled”.

He advised DC Makonda to do a proper research to understand the major problems that teachers face and come up with creative ideas to solve these problems.

On the free transport offer, Mkaula said it would be difficult for teachers who are civil servants to use public transport for free while their pupils continue to pay between 200/- and 300/- per ride.

He noted that students have often had to accept humiliation from commuter bus conductors like being forbidden from occupying a seat or even denied a ride altogether, just because they pay less.

If teachers were to accept the DC’s offer they could be subjected to the same sort of humiliation, he remarked, suggesting that Makonda could alternatively make arrangements for teachers to be provided with their own special buses.

TTU acting secretary general (national) Ezekiel Oluoch also said the teachers were not comfortable with the free transport offer because they feared being humiliated by bus conductors.

“I think the teachers have not been well involved in the plan…that’s why they are not comfortable with it,” Oluoch said when asked to comment.

Introducing the free transport scheme last month, DC Makonda said it was aimed at motivating teachers in line with the fifth phase government’s stated objective of improving the education sector.

He said the teachers would be required to get special IDs (identity cards) to benefit from the service, which was initially set to start from March 7. The IDs would allow teachers to use public transport buses for free from 5.30 to 8 am and from 3 to 5 pm daily.

Between 10,000 to 15,000 primary and secondary teachers in Dar es Salaam were earmarked to benefit from the program.

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