The Chairlady of the Women Against Crime and Corruption (WACC) group and Human Rights Defender, Jenny Ligo, has issued a powerful call for the termination of the Director General (DG) and all directors within the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET).

This call comes in response to the alleged mishandling of teacher payments, which has led to significant disruptions in the education system, impacting children across Vanuatu.

The DG of MoET, Bergmans Iati, responded to the allegations, stating that the signed agreement is separate from the teachers’ budget.

“In the agreement that we signed, it has nothing to do with the teachers’ budget,” the DG said.

He also dismissed the claims of mishandling as misleading by the human rights activist, further denouncing her statements against the Ministry and its staff.

“That is not true, I don’t think that there is a mishandling of the payments of the Vanuatu teachers,” DG Iati said.

Ligo, a staunch advocate for the voiceless in Vanuatu, emphasised the urgent need for the Prime Minister to uphold the fundamental rights of Vanuatu’s children as enshrined in Chapter Two of the Vanuatu Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically the right to education.

She highlighted that the ongoing disputes regarding teachers’ employment status have resulted in government school students missing out on classes, thereby violating their educational rights.

“The dispute should not take this long and should not happen if authorities in the Ministry of Education professionally handle the case as a priority and seriously,” Ligo asserted.

She criticized the Ministry for its failure to address the teachers’ concerns promptly and effectively, stressing that the situation has deteriorated due to the lack of proper consideration, negotiations, and budgeting.

Ligo further lambasted the Ministry for the repeated strikes by teachers over unpaid salaries and entitlements, which she believes reflect poorly on the government’s management of one of its highest-budgeted sectors.

“It is indeed a failure on those in authorities,” she said, noting that any competent employer should understand the necessity of paying employees for extra work and honoring their entitlements.

The Chairlady argued that the situation should not require intervention from the Prime Minister’s office, as it falls within the responsibilities of the MoET to manage and resolve such issues, “the Government of Vanuatu is paying public servants every day to sort out or manage the educational system for the Vanuatu Government and for the people of Vanuatu,” Ligo remarked, underscoring the importance of efficient and professional handling of educational affairs.

Despite these assurances, Ligo remains firm in her stance that the Ministry’s leadership has failed in its duty to adequately support and manage the welfare of teachers, whose role is critical in shaping the future of Vanuatu.

She called for immediate and decisive action to address the systemic issues within the MoET to prevent further disruptions and ensure that the rights of both teachers and students are protected.