Teachers in Gabon are on strike as part of their long campaign for a properly funded education service. The teachers were on strike last year but reached an agreement with the government which involved an increase in education funding. When the government failed to honour its side of the bargain, the strike was resumed in October 2016.
Students and parents as well as teachers have taken to the streets to demand that the government take action on school funding. The protesters were met with security forces using tear gas. Demonstrations were held in Paris against the complicity of the French government with these actions (see picture).
The general secretary of the teachers union SENA said: 'For 20 years, we have been denouncing the same structural problems in the management of the education system, (we are facing) a tense education situation, sometimes with over 200 students per class, the establishment of student rotations, both in primary and secondary education, with some students attending class in the morning, and others in the afternoon. In some cases, the children have to sit on the classroom floor'. The union leader also deplored the increasing privatisation of education in the country.
Like so many teachers in the global South, Gabonese teachers are facing conditions which would be completely unheard of for those if us who teach in the US, EU or UK, as well as corporate 'reform' policies like privatisation.. However again like so many of their colleagues, Gabonese teachers are fighting back. It is good to see our global federation Education International reporting this struggle in detail. Too many teachers' struggles go unreported, except on this website, even by EI.
Gabon has one of the highest average per capita incomes in Africa, yet a large proportion of the population is living in poverty, including teachers. Average life expectancy is only 52 years. It has rich mineral reserves, including oil and manganese but these are syphoned off partly by an elite group, led by the President Ali Bongo and his coterie, who took over from his father as ruler of the country in 2009, and partly by global corporations. These bodies enjoy areas of the country where there is full tax exemption for ten years, 'relaxed' labour laws and energy at 50% of the price, which consumers have to pay. No wonder the US Central Intelligence Agency praises Bongo in its 'factbook' for, "taking steps to make Gabon a more attractive investment destination"