Ongoing demonstrations by disgruntled teachers across the country nearly took a nasty turn on Friday March 11, when police fired tear gas to disperse teachers who were on a protest march to the Ministry of Information in Accra.
The teachers, numbering about 100 told Citi News they had informed the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander of their intention to embark on a peaceful march towards the Information Ministry, to present a petition to their leadership, who are locked up in a meeting with Government to address the discrepancies in teachers’ salaries in relation to the Single Spine Salary Structure.
One of the leaders of the demonstrators, Ernest Opoku, told Citi News as they approached the Ministry, the police officers accosted them near the TiGO office and started firing tear-gas without provocation.
“When we met the Regional Commander yesterday, she said point-blank that she will not allow us to demonstrate and that even if we should come, she will only allow the leadership to go to the Ministries so we agreed. But when we came and told our members they said ‘no’.
“According to them, when we go to the Ministries and we are arrested, they will not be there to see. So they decided to follow us and it was just a peaceful march but the police just started firing tear-gas. They overreacted. It was too much” he said.
Asked whether some teachers indeed hurled stones at the police, Mr. Opoku responded in the negative. “Nobody threw stones. These are sheer lies” he yelled.
The Police have however denied the claims saying some of the teachers were hurling stones at them and even caused some damage to a police vehicle. The Police Commander of the Ministries Divisional Police, Chief Superintendent Joseph Oklu, told Citi News the police had to fire tear gas because the crowd was getting out of control.
“We had to take all necessary security steps and we fired tear gas because that is the effective way of dispersing a crowd which is going out of control. They had more or less become rioters and decided not to stick to what their leadership was telling them. We had to protect installation, members of the general public and the teachers themselves” he explained.
Five of the teachers who were arrested have been released. No severe injuries were recorded.
Meanwhile, a meeting between Government and all stakeholders including the two teacher unions, NAGRAT and GNAT, is underway, and is expected to come out with an amicable solution to the impasse.
Members of NAGRAT are still on strike, pending the outcome of today’s meeting.
In Tamale recently, some demonstrating teachers chased out officers of GNAT and vandalized property belonging to the association.