IT’S Christmas Eve, and there are teachers in parts of the country who have been denied their right to spend this festive period with their families and friends back in their villages.
Teachers teaching in schools in the Central province, some in very remote parts of the province, are still toughing it out in Port Moresby waiting for their leave fares to go home, frustrated but hoping that someone will come good in the last minute so they can go for a well-earned break.
Many teachers braved the heat yesterday to turn up at the Central provincial administration office at Konedobu as earlyl as 7am to get their leave fares, only to realise the door had been closed since close of business at 4.06pm on Monday.
Adrian Siperi, a primary school teacher at Woitape in the Goilala district, said they were already two weeks behind their holidays and it was not fair while others were enjoying themselves.
Mr Siperi spends Christmas with his family at Kwikila and said that the last time he managed to do that was in 2001.
Teachers are entitled to travel fares every two years but between 2003 and 2007, he has not received his leave fares.
“I paid K304 from Woitape to Port Moresby on my family’s travel fees so we could spend Christmas at home in Kwikila but this will not eventuate; that’s injustice,” he said.
“Many who are here paid their own way but will have to spend Christmas with wantoks in Port Moresby. We are all stranded.”
Tony Ninkapo, another teacher, said the education adviser Titus Hatagen had flown out of Port Moresby for his leave and his personal assistant officer could not do much to help them.
He questioned why the education division had engaged a travel agent who was charging a service fee of 17% for processing air tickets.
“By law, they should be charging 10% as the GST is already met on the bulk payment issued; that 7% is robbing us,” he said, adding that appeared to cause the shortfall.
He said the first batch of teachers leave fares were paid to Air Niugini to process but the second batch were all paid to this travel agent.
“It’s the teachers’ money and they should know where their money is going according to their wishes,” he said.
Provincial coordinator for primary school Gaile Gaoma said that most of the teachers complaining had their leave fares outstanding as far back as 2003.
He said according to the Central provincial administration record, there was only 17 teachers who had yet to get their leave fares this year because of late registration.
He admitted that 34 teachers from the Highlands region had outstanding leave fares going back some years and submissions had been made to secure some funding from Vulupindi Haus at Waigani to pay these teachers.
Central province administrator Raphael Yipmaramba said he hoped the teachers’ leave issues would be addressed this afternoon.
He said teachers who missed out registered late.
Mr Yipmaramba also admitted that the education division had no proper record filing system in place to keep the records of teachers leave fares, thus resulting in some teachers missing out.
“We are attending to this and we have been doing so since day one and we hope no one will miss out; every teacher will be paid,” he said.
On the arrangement with the travel agent, he said the Central provincial administration had nothing to do with it.
Paying teachers’ leave fare entitlements was once a centralised function of the Education Department in Waigani, but it was decentralised so each provincial education division dealt with teachers in each provinces.
The problem was widespread in the last couple of years, but some provinces had taken steps to rectify it.
In one Highlands province last year, funds for leave fare entitlements for teachers were diverted to pay a legal firm for services rendered in a tussle over the administrator’s post.