Teachers in the Krachi District in the Volta Region last Monday took to the streets, in line with the action of their colleagues all over the country, to demand the restoration of the Teachers Pension Ordinance of 1955 and Government Pension Law of 1946, otherwise known as CAP 30. In the course of expressing the hell they were going through, they claimed the current Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) Pension Scheme was not only a killer scheme, but comparatively 'killed' the retired teacher more slowly and painfully than the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. They therefore called it 'a mockery, insult and disrespect for a segment of the Public Service.'
The about 750 - strong demonstrating teachers, all clad in red to signify the seriousness of their plight and acting under the umbrella of the local branch of Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), marched through the principal streets of the district capital, singing war songs and wielding placards, some of which were interesting reading.
“The chalk is stronger than the gun,” “Teachers too must smile after retirement” and “SSNIT pension is suicidal” were some of the inscriptions on the placards, but the most eye-catching and thought - provoking among the lot sent a screaming message: “SSNIT PENSION IS WORSE THAN HIV/AIDS.”
The visibly angry teachers claimed that for a person who had been in the classroom for 35 years to receive ¢3.5 million as pension, was the worst thing to happen to mankind on this planet, worse than the pandemic of our generation.
The procession, which started at about 9.05 a.m., marched to the tune of brass band, 'jama' and borborbor music from Fitting Camp at the outskirts of the town to the Lakeside. It later returned and headed towards the streets that passed by the forecourt of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), Ghana Telecom (GT), Ghana Prisons Service, Fire Service, Ghana Education Service (GES) and finally to the district assembly.
But the peaceful march nearly turned violent when, at the assembly, the demonstrators got to know that both the District Chief Executive (DCE) and Distict Coordinating Director (DCD), who were to receive their petition, were not in office.
“We had informed them of this march long ago. Their absence at this hour of the day is deliberate, and they must answer for it,” said one disappointed demonstrator. It took another 45 minutes to calm down tempers after one Mr. Solomon Samah, who claimed to be the second deputy to the coordinating director in charge of administration, opted to stand in for the DCE.
According to a three-page petition signed by George Achibra, Salifu Abdul-Azizu, K.M. Asamoah-Brabi and Rebecca Donkor Ntoso (district GNAT chairman, secretary, trustee and treasurer in that respective order), the abolition of the government pension scheme for teachers, and its discriminatory and arbitrary retention for several other organizations, was an injustice being perpetrated against them.
“For us in the Krachi district, the continuance of this policy is devoid of logic and an act that is at variance with the fundamental principles of equity, distributive justice, fairness and human rights, which underpins our Republican Constitutional Order,” it read.
They insisted further that; “The policy of selective compensation and selective deprivation constitutes, in our view, a callous, unmerciful and fragrant betrayal of teachers and lack of appreciation of our vital and incalculable sacrifices, contributions, as well as the sweat and toil we have expended to make all the positive difference in our national life.”
The petitioners contended that going by what they called a new species of incomes policy and administration of terminal benefits, it was glaring that some public servants were being helped to swim while others were just left to sink.
Even though the teachers conceded that this government did not create the disparity, contradictory statements being made by government officials on the issue sounded alarming to them.
“Your Excellency, while some call on workers to forget CAP 30 and look for enhancement of benefits under the SSNIT Pension Scheme, others mention government's readiness to resolve the issue when the economy improves. At the same time, some people are saying that a committee has been set up to study the matter. These utterances are clear indications that government has no intention to initiate any actions that would restore us to CAP 30,” they pointed out.
The demonstrators said their patience was running out and they could wait no longer.
They threatened to embark on more proactive actions if government failed to respond positively to their request.
In a separate interview with The Chronicle a blind teacher, who took active part in the march, Mr. Emmanuel Donkor, appealed to the government to put smiles on the faces of retiring teachers by heeding to their call.
The 43-year old teacher, who passed out from the Jasikan Training College, said he joined the service in 1985.
Donkor said he was pleased to have returned from a recent trip to South Africa in time to join his colleagues to fight for CAP 30.
Receiving the petition on behalf of the DCE, Mr. Samah assured them that it would be passed to the right quarters for the concerns raised to be addressed.
He thanked the teachers for their patience and maturity in organizing the demonstration. The petition was directed to the President through the Volta Regional Minister.
The demonstration was part of efforts by GNAT nationwide to pile more pressure on government to revert to the scheme, which had been cancelled since 1972.