The GTU leadership regularly embarks on member-education campaigns, recruitment drives and a Meet-The-Teacher Tour (MTT), to meet with teachers at their workplaces and discuss issues pertaining to their welfare and living conditions.
The objectives of the MTT are:
- To assess the working and living conditions of teachers
- To assess members’ knowledge of their representatives and their functions
- To provide empirical evidence on the nature of staffing in terms of qualifications, gender, status and placement
- To identify topical issues for discussion and advocacy
The findings of the tour, among other things, invite the trade union to review and revitalise all of its structures, particularly at the grassroots level, make technical services more accessible at the grassroots level, and intensify member education and recruitment campaigns to ensure a more responsive union. All of these activities are focused on advocating for and retaining teachers in the trade union.
The GTU, in collaboration with Action Aid International-The Gambia, participated in a scheme to roll out the Promoting Rights in Schools (PRS) Package. The PRS is a resource pack produced by the Right to Education Project with Action Aid’s International Education Team. It aims at actively engaging parents, children, communities and local civil society organisations in collectively monitoring and improving the quality of public education. This helps all parties to engage in a dialogue, and through that dialogue, helps them to appreciate the important work teachers do.
The GTU Newsletter serves as a vehicle to share the trade union’s major programmes and activities. The general membership is always encouraged to contribute articles for the regular publication in the newsletter. It provides the membership with an opportunity to reflect on conditions affecting their wellbeing and renew their commitment and support to the trade union’s spirit and deals.
Importance of gender equality for GTU
Women leaders are trained on the teacher unions’ role in the prevention of violence against female teachers and other education staff, and advancing gender equality in teacher unions.
The GTU leadership acknowledges the negative impact of sexual harassment and its associated vices, which may hinder girls’ socialisation process (particularly those in school), to the extent that they lack confidence, self-assertiveness and esteem. This invariably affects their opportunity to access and remain in school, and participate and perform at all levels of education.
The GTU also embarks on national campaigns, in an effort to implement the guiding principles (Principles I and II) of its Constitution and By-laws. It hopes that the campaign against sexual exploitation and abuse in schools, by ensuring safe school environments, will enhance equitable access to quality public education for all.
To enhance understanding, as well as provide reference materials for participants and the targeted groups, brochures, stickers, posters and t-shirts were produced. The brochure served as the principal reference material, containing useful information on the prevention of sexual harassment. Female members, feeling really secure and protected as such, remained within the trade union.
Gambian teachers’ Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct
Teachers have long been vulnerable to all kinds of allegations regarding their professional conduct. Changes in the patterns of allegations and a heightened concern among teachers and the GTU, have prompted the production of a Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct.
The regulations in this code are not meant to curtail or restrain teachers’ freedom or merely to catalogue offences and penalties. It is intended to help teachers reduce further their risk of exposure to false or malicious allegations of misconduct or abuse towards students. All teachers will understand and appreciate that a code of conduct cannot cover all eventualities and will not totally remove the risk of false or malicious allegations. This is a safety valve for our teachers, therefore, which should retain them within the trade union.
In its By-laws, the GTU committed itself “to secure effective representation on all executive and advisory bodies having powers to make decisions that may affect the teaching profession”. As such, we represent teachers on many bodies and committees.
Diverse high-level partnerships
We frequently work, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education’s Coordinating Committee Meetings, with the Ministry of Higher Education Research Science and Technology Working Group on Quality Assurance and Policy formulation; the Gambia National Library Service Agency Board, the West African Examinations Council, and the National Advisory Council on Education.We also work with the Government through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and school leaders to implement policy reforms aimed at retaining effective teachers in schools.
The leadership of the Union is grateful to the Government, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, not only for recognising our efforts and contributions in national development, but also for appreciating and accepting us as genuine partners in development. This is all geared towards advocating for and retaining our members!
The GTU is a politically independent education union and membership of it is voluntary. The GTU perspective is to faithfully and willingly serve the cause of teachers. It strives to ensure that teachers’ viewpoints are heard on work-related issues and to enhance their professional status, strengthening the status of the teaching profession and promoting the image of teaching as an attractive career.
A comprehensive education union
We also pledge ourselves to effectively organize all teachers and education workers in schools, educational establishments and other institutions of learning, in a national teachers’ union. This is the ultimate guarantee for the protection and promotion of the rights of teachers to achieve better living standards, improved and enhanced status, and better working conditions.
The aim is to obtain for all teachers stability of tenure, security of employment, security and insulation against invalidity, accidents and other risks and hazards of life, and against victimisation at work and arbitrary dismissal. GTU struggles for the recognition and defence of all teachers’ legitimate rights.
The GTU serves the interests of the teaching profession and teachers, all children entrusted to our custody and guidance, and the Gambia’s people. It works for the development and strengthening of our traditional institutions, in conformity with our traditional way of life and aspirations, and our attachment to freedom, justice and democracy. We resolutely defend and uphold the democratic foundation and the principles upon which the future of our country must be built. We strive to win full respect for the dignity and rights of the individuals whom we serve. Our work is founded on a broad and dynamic approach to knowledge.
The GTU also works to retain great teachers in schools. To this end, it seeks to amplify the voice of outstanding, early-career teachers who want to transform the teaching profession and to reward, develop and retain excellent teachers.
Our goal is to help these teachers both become informed and advocate for change and incubate their innovative ideas for retaining teachers like them.
Research makes it clear that teachers are the most important variable in student success, yet the profession is not organised to reward excellence, promote teacher development, or retain top performers in the classroom. Nearly half of teachers leave just as they reach their peak of effectiveness.
Only by fundamentally altering the teaching career to meet the expectations of a 21st century workforce can we meet the ambitious goals we have established for student performance. The strength of the overall education system depends on teachers building experience and committing to stay on as classroom leaders through a second stage of their careers.
The GTU addresses this urgent need for effective, experienced teachers in classrooms. We work with both solutions-oriented teachers and education policy leaders in transforming the profession to reward excellence and results.
Teachers unions are the only major educational players still focused on advancing school equity by leveling the playing field. Rarely do politicians propose policy measures motivated by concerns about equity, such as school integration, based on socio-economic status or equitable school funding.
Schools with unionised teachers often produce students with higher school achievements. We need to model ourselves as learners for our students, know our profession well, and we should be supported as we address new mandates and reform. As inspiring and important as the work is, it can also be very fast-paced and even overwhelming. Students need and deserve well-trained, experienced professionals in the classroom, and that does not happen without professional development, for which teacher unions fight tirelessly.
Services and programmes provided to members
The leadership of the GTU continues to be committed to providing services and programmes to enhance teachers’ work and improve their academic and professional status.
In March 1996, the GTU leadership established a credit union.This is to provide members with financial services to boost their economic status. The credit union encourages prudent borrowing for big-purchase items, emergencies, or educational needs by developing a regular saving habit. Members build economic security for themselves and their families. Today, the Gambia Teachers’ Union Cooperative Credit Union is one of the best in the Sub-Region. It is the GTU’s most important tool for recruiting members.
Consequently, in August 2000, the union launched the GTU Summer Extra Mural Classes aimed at upgrading the academic and professional standing of teachers, improving the quality of education delivery, and creating sustainable opportunities for teachers to access higher education.
This programme continues to attract teachers intending to upgrade themselves academically and seek further professional training. Some of these candidates are now pursing Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in various disciplines.
The GTU continues to join the global teacher community in commemorating World Teachers’ Day. This gives it the opportunity to highlight issues that affect teachers and develop strategies for improvement. GTU continues to celebrate teachers and strengthen its advocacy for the improvement of both their living and working conditions.
The GTU aims at:
- Providing the means whereby the collective views, opinions and decisions of members affecting the interests of education in general and those of the teaching profession, in particular, can be expressed;
- Maintaining the democratic character of the Union and protecting it from both internal and external hostile forces and infiltration by subversive and reactionary elements, opposed to democratic and free unionism, and, also, to safeguarding the autonomy of the Union;
- Establishing, promoting and maintaining a high standard of professional qualifications, loyalty to established principles and unswerving devotion to the proper education of children;
- Sharing ideas, experiences and best practices on issues affecting our staff and the general membership with the view to providing necessary guidance in our overall operations;
- Highlighting barriers to women’s participation in union matters and suggesting means of overcoming them; and
- Raising potential members’ awareness about GTU services, in order to recruit them and evaluate the level of achievement registered, and to planthe way forward.
GTU works mainly towards:
- Advocating for policy change and dialogue;
- Protecting members’ rights;
- Supporting linkages and networking as dictated by our motto: Solidarity forever;
- Engaging in consciousness-raising on the rights and responsibilities of our members;
- Providing socio-economic services; and
- Influencing and organising debates and symposia.
This must lead to a sustainable, independent, democratic, and recognised teachers’ union.
Efforts towards increasing education quality
Over the past two decades, the Gambian education system experienced a rapid expansion in the number of schools and children’s enrolment rate. Despite the encouraging results observed in the area of access to education, the quality of that education still remains a challenge. The current efforts of the Education Ministry are, therefore, geared towards improving the quality of education at all levels.
Policy makers have expressed great concern over the generally low standards for admission to teacher-training programmes and a lack of rigorous courses in many of the programmes. There is a longstanding difficulty in finding qualified teachers for certain subjects, such as in the sciences. Among the most contentious issues in attracting and retaining teachers is the level of teacher salaries. In the Gambia, a comparison of average annual salaries shows teachers earning significantly less than those in other professions.
It is precisely this lack of prospects which drives many teachers into other professional sectors. The GTU believes that raising salaries is the most important measures with regard to tackling teacher shortages and attrition.
In its struggle to realise its goals and ambitions with respect to the need “to associate, unite and secure complete organisation of all teachers and education workers of the Gambia regardless of grade, qualification, race, sex, colour, religion, creed or nationality, within a national union of teachers”, the GTU committed itself to initiating and implementing programmes and activities aiming at advocating for better salaries and retaining teachers in education.