Friday, January 12, 2018

If You Save You Must Borrow, Teachers' Credit Union Manager Says

The Gambia Teachers' Union Cooperative Credit Union, GTUCCU, the is largest and arguably the most vibrant credit union in the country. It has transformed the lives of teachers and greatly raised their dignity (Photo Credit: Access Gambia)

By Ebrima Bah, freelance journalist

The General Manager of the Gambia Teachers’ Union Cooperative Credit Union (GTUCCU), Baboucarr O Joof has given additional weigh of support to the cooperative’s 2017 delegates to instil greater financial discipline on its members.

His bold stance came in address to the students-teachers of the University of the Gambia on Wednesday at the Brikama campus.

The president of the university education students association, Alhagie B Sama said his executive was compelled to engage the management of the GTUCCU by the on-going concerns of dissatisfaction of teachers on a number of resolutions made by the cooperative.

He indulged participants to summarise their daily crossfires on all burning teacher financial issues to the audience of the management of the credit union.

On behalf of the taskforce committee called ‘Concerned GTUCCU Members’, Omar Jawara stated that teachers were first compelled to join the credit union to achieve financial freedom but their social contract with the cooperative is being undermined by new regulations.

He pointed out that members are disappointed with the decision to replace annual meetings of general membership to bias representation.

Mr Jawara stated that the idea of increasing members compulsory saving from four thousands to six thousands dalasi is unjustifiable to a salary earner of two to three thousands, noting that saving should be left to the choice of members.

He also argued that the system should rely on its liquidity to finance future projects than sponsoring resolutions to deduct funds from members.

The GTUCCU manager reminded members at the meeting that the credit union which is boosting of over twenty three thousands members was established under the ‘Cooperative Act’ of 1993 with intention to empower teachers.

He noted that annual resolutions are passed to the credit registry for verification and approval before they become legally binding.

Mr Joof argued that the resolution to increase the saving of members is to condition them to save so that they can live above poverty. “At the credit union, if you save, you must borrow, and this kind of innovations is what makes us outstanding.”

Upon all, he said the cooperative is flexible on its financial policies such as the one deterring members to contract a loan on top of an existing loan, or withdrawing from savings without complete repayment of loan.

He admitted that the credit union is interested in more money but for the interest of members. He stressed that gone are days when a teacher retires after forty years of active service to a zero dalasi account.

Recently, he recalled, the female teacher who retired to over one hundred thousand dalasi in her account is not complaining of a four thousands compulsory saving.

Baboucarr O Joof further stated that if every teacher insists in withdrawing what belongs to him, the credit union will die a natural death.

On the issue of representation, he responded that it is not logistically feasible for the entire membership of the cooperative to participate in one meeting.

He added that the board of directors of the credit union have noted down concerns such as loan interest rates, communication gaps, and real estate schemes to be given due attention.

However, he told them, “If you feel what is done is not in the right direction, you can bring a resolution for the decision of the next delegates meeting even if you are not selected as delegates.”

Development of mixed feeling

The largest and arguably the most vibrant credit union in the country has transformed the lives of teachers and greatly raised their dignity.

Its services are addressing the transport need of teachers in hard to reach areas by giving them motorbikes on loan in addition to financial loans on lower interest rates than that of the conventional banks.

Contribution of its members has established seven outlets across the country including two state of the art administrative headquarters in region four, and six each as a result of onetime off deduction.

Another resolution in reference by the teachers was the recent financial support given to the Gambia College by the cooperative.

According to members, the board of directors are likely to introduce more resolutions to support the establishment of more office branches, consumer shops in different parts of the country, real estate schemes in the name of teachers.

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