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Analysis: PCC Teachers Vs Education Secretary – Need For Restraint 

By Peterkins Manyong

Change is the only thing that is constant. People contest what was accepted yesterday because the circumstances are not the same as today. This is a fact which every administrator must embrace. No rational leader assumes the position of God, the only Changer that remains unchanged and unchangeable.

The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon is witnessing what may turn out to be the most unsavoury crisis in its history. The crisis was sparked by the detention of two top officials of the newly created Presbyterian Education Authority Teachers’ Trade Union, PEATTU, by the Bafut Police District.

The two, Stephen Afuh and Michael Kima, President and Vice, respectively, were detained following a complaint from Joseph Baboni, the Presbyterian Education Secretary. Their crime: disturbing the quiet enjoyment of “Baboni Mugabe” as the Presbyterian Education boss has since been nicknamed. The PEATTU top officials were detained for taking pictures of Baboni’s premises without authorisation.

Baboni may be right in wondering why pictures of his premises were being taken without his knowledge and accusing the two PEATTU officials of espionage. But he gave the world a very obnoxious image of himself by causing the incarceration instead of reporting them to his hierarchy, the Synod.

That act has radicalised PEATTU whose avowed mission is to work for the wellbeing of Presbyterian teachers. Baboni, we are reliably informed, has initiated legal proceedings against the PEATTU officials who, in retaliation, have deposited a complaint against him at the Northwest Regional Delegation of Labour and Social Security. The complaint is dated August 10, 2010.

Genesis Of The Conflict

The conflict has its genesis in the yawning gap between the luxury surrounded lifestyle of Presbyterian Education authorities,  Baboni for instance, and that of the average Presbyterian teacher who lives in a ghetto and feeds on garbage. It is such a gap which brought about the French Revolution of 1789. While bishops and nobles lived in sophisticated villas, the parish priests and peasants lived in squalor. Some of the parish priests were even more wretched than the peasants.

The same situation precipitated the Partition of Poland in the 19th century. The mansions in which the nobility lived were found in the same neighbourhood with those of the peasants and therefore a constant reminder that the two classes of people were worlds apart. The February 2008 uprising in five of Cameroon’s ten provinces resulted from a like factor.

While Biya and his cohorts play around with billions of the taxpayers’ money, the average Cameroonian who makes the economic sacrifice, cannot afford a single meal worth its name. It was to better the condition of Presbyterian school teachers that PEATTU came into existence. The easiest thing to get is money, but the most difficult thing to have is the idea on how to get the money.

It is common knowledge that charities, foundations and other philanthropic organisations are not in short supply, all ready to assist the needy, but only well informed persons and organisations have access to them. PEATTU is one of such organisations. The pictures which were intended for a comparative study to complete a file destined for some European organisations interested in giving assistance to the Trade Union Presbyterian schools.

The guilty, goes the saying, are afraid. Baboni knows that most Presbyterian teachers live in penury. It is difficult to provide all these teachers the wherewithal to make their lives more tolerable, just as it is for parliamentary grants to solve all the problems of a political constituency. Baboni is, unmistakably, a very rich man.

But even if he decided to stand on his roof top and throw the money down to hapless Presbyterian teachers, that would not solve the problem. Reason being that the money would not be picked up by the poorest, but by the robust and well fed ones, leaving the poor and enfeebled ones more miserable than before.

 The often quoted Soame Jennyns in his essay “A Free Enquiry Into the Origin and Nature of Evil”, identifies poverty as the offspring of most vices and does not believe that it can be eradicated by mere charity. A good educational foundation is the beginning of the process of poverty eradication. Although in colonial times the teacher’s salary was minimal his education had inculcated in him the values of integrity hence his deification by his pupils who considered a teacher as no ordinary mortal.

To the children a teacher neither ate nor visited the toilet unlike ordinary humans. He was neat and morally upright. But the poverty in which some modern mission teachers live, those of Presbyterian and Baptist primary schools especially, coupled with inadequate training, is responsible for poor standards.

In pious times, that is, before this moral decadence set in, the writing of a mere love letter was an abomination and any boy caught with it suffered the ignominy of being lifted frog-like, by four big boys and given twelve strokes of the cane in the full glare of the whole school. Today, teachers not only champion immorality, but do it with the impunity illustrated by the words of a teacher in one of Mathew Takwi’s poems:

“Your marks are found around the region of your pubic hair; deliver or you will never be delivered from here”. If teachers of our modern schools were comfortable, they would work not only better and produce good results, but would be morally upright. A teacher whose belly rumbles while he is delivering lectures is not entitled to any modicum of respect from children.

His words, however sagacious, would, in the ears of the pupils, be nothing but a rhapsody of meaningless words. Baboni could help improve the wellbeing of the teachers by working alongside well-meaning organisations like PEATTU to improve the lot of Presbyterian teachers.

It should not be the leader of a Christian education denomination to terrorise his subordinates. Going to court or to the Delegation of Labour and Social Security is like pouring petrol on an already raging fire. A quick solution to the crisis is the first litmus test for the leadership of PCC Moderator, Rev. Festus Asana.

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