February 8, 2014 (JUBA) - Teachers and auxiliary staff members in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state have gone into hiding after authorities reportedly threatened to arrest advocates after they submitted a memo demanding payment for unpaid salaries.
- Teachers in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state say the quality of education has been allowed to decline under the current administration (Photo: UNICEF/Brian Sokol)
Local officials reportedly blamed the central government for failing to provide adequate funds, workers have claimed.
An official at the state ministry of finance who spoke on condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune Saturday that the said funds had been diverted to manage the current crisis situation, as well as assist those who have been displaced by the conflict, leaving the government “overstretched”.
“These resources would have otherwise been utilised in our normal and daily operations. The central government is overstretched with emergency responses that it does not promptly attend to issues surrounding budgetary deficits in any state at the moment”, the official said.
“And the state government is trying the best to pay our teachers and the support staff, but they also need to exercise patience and show an understanding. Yes, it is their rights to be paid but they should understand the situation in which we are”, he added.
However, multiple lawmakers and teachers have refuted the government’s version, questioning why state authorities had made selected payments to some employees.
One legislator, who declined to be identified, claimed lawmakers had decided not to press the state administration on the matter over fears they would be framed as supporters of rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.
“We are now in a completely different situation - a period that if you talk about issues you think are not being addressed by the current administration, you will definitely find yourself being framed as the supporter of the rebel [movement]”, he said.
The legislator said he had personally spoken to the minister of education and several officials at the ministry of finance, who confirmed the governor had pocketed about 2 million South Sudanese pounds (SSP).
“We don’t know what he did with that money, although some people claimed [he] used [it] to support the national army in Jonglei [state] where he went”, he said
A teacher told Sudan Tribune that he and some of his colleagues were summoned by government agents and threatened with arrest, should they release another memo.
In further claims, he accused the state minister of public service and human resources, Bol Tong, of reporting them to national security as rebel supporters and demanding their arrest.
He said the accusations had caught lawmakers by surprise, describing the claims as “completely ridiculous”.
“What is the connection between demanding payment and the rebel [movement]?” he said.
Another teacher said the state government was taking advantage of the current situation to perpetuate malpractice and the embezzlement of public resources in the name of supporting the national army.
“They think we are a fool to be fooled and believe what they say. You cannot bully everyone into your own way of thinking”, he said.
“They are talking of coup, coup, coup and rebellion but who does not know that this was just a plot to continue the looting [of public funds]”, he added.
He claimed presidential officials, including governor Paul Malong Awan, wanted president Salva Kiir to remain to in the office at any cost, despite the erosion essential public services, including education.
“The system of education has been destroyed and they do not want it to be improved because their children [are] in Kenyan and Uganda. They want to be let off the hook. We will not let them off the hook because the people of this country want change”, he said.