I really had no intention of ever going to the treasury to ask for it. But a few weeks ago the Teachers Union put out a call for all teachers to turn out in solidarity against a verbal attack launched against them by the higher ups. Needless to say I went and at that meeting, surrounded by all that energy and emboldening statements like, “Go get your back pay man,it’s yours.” or “Drop drop full bucket.”
“Hey, I’m in town anyway, so why not?” I thought, and merrily right to the doors of the treasury I trod. To collect my back pay from the recent Teacher reclassification. When I got there I had to stand in line, because well, lines are a necessary evil of society that are needed to exact order. But that wasn’t the thing that should have made me march right back out, it was the other teachers in the line, people who like me had come because they had the opportunity, of being in town and not at school in the various outreaches of the country side, and who had come just like me to collect the back pay.
When my colleagues were called to the window it was reported that there was some issue with the distribution, I didn’t get the full gist of the story but still being somewhat optimistic, again encouraged by their willingness to work with the system, I too stepped up to the window.
What I met there was a pimply faced kid. I’m sure he had graduated secondary school in the last half decade, someone who I probably could have taught in my near decade as a teacher. But more than this was the look on his face. A look of such derision that my hackles began to rise immediately. It was written plainly on his face. “You are such and annoyance” his face said. I stated my name and purpose, in my most unassuming voice, having affixed my I’m-dealing-with-a-bureaucrat smile.
I was thusly informed that the back pay would not be distributed on account of the fact that the process had taking place in 2014, therefore the monies could not be released because the 2015 budget was currently being debated, what more the process could not be carried out because Mr. So and So was out to lunch, at two in the afternoon no less, and was the only person in the entire Government financial institution that could handle the matter. There were no ifs and or buts about it, Mr lounging-in-his-chair-looking-down-his-nose-at-me said.
I felt like I had been kicked, kicked like a starving animal that had crawled up on someone’s veranda during a rain storm and had been rudely evicted with a few wacks from a coconut broom. The voice in my head reminded me in the most disgusted voice I had ever heard that she had told me so. And what was this all over? You won’t believe me when I tell you. 10 dollars and cents. A whole year’s worth of back pay, for a teacher in my position. Myself and teachers, like me had gotten an overwhelming 73 cents on our monthly salary as a result of the reclassification, which only sought to redistribute and clarify the duties of teachers so we could be more comfortable and reassured in our roles as teachers.
Now there are other issues that probably prompted the voice to remind me of just how out of the way I was to come here, and ask for 10 dollars, instead of letting it be reabsorbed into the government machine, hopefully on it’s way to aiding to repay our ever increasing national debt. But if I were to outline them we wouldn’t leave here today.
Why am I relating the tale? Well the answer to that one is simple. Teachers have taken a lot of hits, a whole lot of slander to the profession in general from the general public. This very reclassification bought a slew of negativity because, according to them,we were just after money, we were lazy and not working, etc,etc,etc. But I’m hoping that my story reaches the working man, the one who knows what it is to live under the slave masters called inflation and rising oil prices in our teeny tiny economy. The one who can relate to going to work everyday and breaking your back for the good of the entire social organism.
This in the face of orientations were we are advised that we must budget from our personal funds to provide manipulatives and resources for the children of our nation, stranger’s children. Irrespective of any children and personal expenses we may have for ourselves. And over the years I’m sure I’ve spent thousands on bus fare, and lunches, manipulatives and so on, in the name of providing a quality education for the children of strangers .
Teachers like me, don’t do those things for the love of self? Selfish greedy people, do not face physical abuse in the name of fund raising. Stress levels through the roof in the name of deadlines, that children do not respect but administrators hold rigidly dear and assessments and training. Long nights of planning and eye searing marking sessions, not to mention all the other non-academic distraction that we are provided.
I hope it reached you, the stranger, who are the parents of these children. The parents of the hope of a nation. Because if you see yourself , really as the parents of a nation, then you need to know that we are really on the same side.