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Teachers resort to loan acquisition for housing construction
Many teachers are now going in for loans to acquire housing, as their salaries can hardly sustain them and with their families in the face of rapid rise in prices of basic human needs. The latest report of the Gambia Teachers Cooperative Credit Union (GTUCCU) states that out of a total of 3942 teachers who applied for loan at the credit union, more than 1200, representing 39%, do so for building purpose. This indicates that many teachers cannot afford the cost of building from their own savings or from their meagre salaries. A qualified HTC teacher, after spending three years at the college, earns not more than D3,500 a month when a mere Grade 12 graduate, employed as a cashier at a bank, could be earning an initial salary of up to D4,500 or D5,000 with some fringe benefits. The GTUCCU has disbursed almost D25 million as loan, in two years, to almost two thousand five hundred teachers for building purpose. The Loans Review Committee of the union urges all the teachers to “honourably” repay loans and interests attached to them for subsequent disbursement to other applicants due for loans. However, the committee is worried at the rate of teachers failing to repay their loans. It says: “The rate at which bad loans or unpaid debts are showing their ugly faces is rather appalling. We must repay all loans and interest accordingly. That way, we shall maintain our GTUCCU flag flying above expectation.” Baboucarr O. Joof, general manager of GTUCCU, said the union would take “genuine and practical” steps to recover bad debts “at all cost in the foot of pro-action” in loan recovery. The management of the union has set itself realistic targets in these areas and in pursuing them, he said. However, to find out whether loan could be the only option through which teachers can afford housing, this reporter caught up with some teachers to gauge their opinions on the issue. Ebrima Bah, a qualified HTC teacher, said taking loans “is the only way now” most teachers can afford to build houses, because they cannot depend on their salaries for anything else save for feeding their families. If it were not for loans, 90 per cent of teachers in this country would not be able to build and own houses out of their salaries, he said, adding that before the advent of the GTUCCU, many teachers had spent all their productive lives in teaching and weren’t able to build a house for themselves. “They are still renting, even after retirement they are in their family compounds; this condition discourages many young people from the teaching profession,” he said. “This is why in The Gambia, teaching is associated with poverty.” Mr Bah said that in the past many teachers taught for years without being able to open a bank account for themselves. Isatou Sowe, daughter to a retired headmaster, said her father had been teaching even before she was born “but up to now we are still living in a teachers’ quarter as my father does not have a compound of his own”. Isatou’s father, who started teaching in 1973, retired in 2010 and is in his retirement, is still living in teachers’ quarter. She said her father had pleaded with the education authorities to allow him to stay in the quarters till his elder sons find another residence for the family. “I don’t want anybody in my family to be a teacher again. Enough of it,” she remarked.