PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – Following several days of peaceful protest by instructors of the Monrovia Vocational Training Center in demand of salary arrears, on Monday, November 27, the institute began paying four months of arrears.
Frustrated at not having been paid for several months, the aggrieved teachers laid down their chalks last Tuesday to draw the attention of the government to their plight.
In solidarity, students also joined the protest to exert pressure on authorities at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, under which the training institute operates.
Though the protests were peaceful, the students prevented staff of the administration, journalists, and others from entering the campus compound.
Inside the facility, classes and offices were completely abandoned and the campus resembled a ghost town.
Henry Nyandibo, an instructor within the mechanical department and a spokesperson for the aggrieved teachers, told The Bush Chicken on Monday that the teachers had run out of patience after waiting for several months without being paid.
However, by Tuesday, Nyandibo spoke to The Bush Chicken via phone to say the ministry had started paying salaries on Monday evening. He noted that the instructors were being paid for four months “instead of five months,” as they had expected.
However, the assistant director for administration, David Payedoe, disagreed with the teachers who said they were owed five months’ worth of salaries; he said they went unpaid for only four months.
Nyandibo said teachers would resume regular classes following a meeting with all stakeholders. He added that “the teachers do not want a re-occurrence of the situation.”
Julius Paye, an electrical instructor, said the teachers explored all avenues of diplomacy with authorities at the ministry before proceeding with the protest.
“Strike action is the only language the government understands,” he said. “The teachers’ labor cannot be used and abuse.”
He said 38 teachers at the center are considered ‘volunteer’ workers and earn US$150 monthly, which he said is converted into Liberian dollars before being paid to them, further decreasing its value.
“The teachers became beggars for five months due to the delay of their salaries,” he said.
Paye said the teachers’ salary arrears is just a symptom of the brewing crisis at the training institute. He urged the government to establish a committee to assess the current operations of the center.
It was a sentiment echoed by Bob Emmanuel Paye, a student and president of MVTC’s student council, who said he wants the government make the MVTC an antonymous institution like the Booker Washington Institution in Margibi.
While students would rather be acquiring knowledge than protesting, Paye said the student body recognized that it is “pathetic” to have heads of households working and not taking anything back home at the end of the month.
Paye said the issue of paying instructors’ salaries on time is an age-old problem at the institution.
The vocational training center was established in 1978 and trains electricians, heavy duty mechanics, welders, carpenters, and plumbers, among other disciplines.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah