The alarm bells should have been ringing in the corridors of the National Department of Education in Port Moresby when teachers began reporting that their pays had been cut.
At the national level, a proper detailed response should have been prepared to put the teacher’s minds at ease and an immediate investigation initiated.
Instead the department’s response was delayed. The arrogance of those in charge of provincial education divisions around the country came to the fore.
Many teachers were told that they would have to pay for their own pay slips. Teachers told of how they – the men and women at the frontline of the war against illiteracy and ignorance – were treated badly by pen pushers who sat behind desks in government officers.
Many in education offices who deal with teachers queries have a false sense of importance. Teachers have complained that they are not accorded the respect they deserve.
The mistreatment of teachers ranged from plain rudeness to verbal abuse and extortion. There are hundreds of cases. Rural teachers are perhaps treated the worst. Teachers know how to do their jobs well in a school. But they don’t know how to weave through a system complicated by people to tell them to “come back tomorrow” because the officer in charge isn’t at work.
No clear explanation was given as to why the pay cuts happened or how the “3% increment” was calculated and paid. They only got to know about an apparent fault in the payroll system when the Education Minister, Nick Kuman mentioned it.
What happened to the managers responsible for the salaries section and the payroll? Why did an explanation have to come from the minister? What happened to internal communications that could have been passed on to teachers with clarity?
From the outside, the bureaucracy is out of touch with reality. It is so comfortable with the status quo that its sluggishness was exposed.
The PM responded to the concerns and directed the Education Minister to respond appropriately because the public servant paid by the government didn’t do his or her job.
They neglected it and thought it would go away. But it didn’t and the PM got involved. It got to the PM’s office because somebody didn’t do his job.
I hope to see those incompetent faceless people get sacked. Their incompetence caused hundreds of families to suffer over three fortnights.