Frustration is an ever present emotion for me here. Sometimes it can just be a response to disorganisation or ridiculous bureaucracy involving masses of unnecessary paperwork. However, the most difficult to accept is when something is blatantly unfair and, to my mind corrupt.
One of my youngest readers sent a text this week to ask,” Why can’t you just tell the lazy teachers how useless they are?” Little does he know what a can of worms that is!
There is a Disciplinary Committee established at the District Education Office. They can sit to hear cases of repeated drunkenness and teachers sexually abusing pupils etc, but they almost never do as there are costs incurred. Teachers can have their salaries placed on an embargo. They will still get their money one day when it is lifted, but it is frozen by the District Director in the meantime. There is paperwork to be done for this so it rarely happens. Incidentally, there are unqualified teachers in this district who have not been paid since 2009. Goodness knows how they are living.
In addition to these sanctions, teachers are re-posted from one school to another for professional negligence like repeated absence, lack of lesson preparation, causing disruption in school, not cooperating with the headteacher and staff, refusing to do their job etc etc. The best schools are expected to be in the District Capital, in our case Nadowli, where they are “seen”. If you are reposted from a town school you will be banished to a village somewhere. Out of sight out of mind!
Now come the tricky bits……….. There are people in Africa who are known to have strong spiritual powers that they frequently use against others for a fee. I have heard that some spell will be chanted, often over an item of stolen clothing or maybe a piece of hair that will bring something untoward or even death to the victim or a family member. This can be inflicted just by brushing past someone and touching them. These are real fears and people here can quote examples. The legal system of law and order comes a far second to traditional retribution and spiritual punishment. Nobody wants to be the person pointing the finger and making a decision to reprimand a wrong doer, especially if they live in the same community as the miscreant.
Families are extremely strong and widely extended. Family members are very quick to stand by their own. If someone causes the slightest offence to another, possibly inadvertently, there will be words if not actions to follow. If you have a connection with someone in the District Assembly (local council) and you are being punished for not doing your job, they will step in and demand a favour on your behalf and suddenly Education Officers are made to look fools as they back down to preserve their safety. In addition, confidentiality is almost non-existent here. Whatever you say goes right around and back to you, leaving debris in its wake.
It is not fair and it is the survival of the fittest and dog eat dog to a greater extent. Whatever the situation, it is a brave person who is prepared to stick their neck out and tell a lazy teacher how useless he is! This system needs more very brave people before this education system is likely to improve.