It was disgusting reading in The New Times last week that teachers from Kigali Alliance High School, a city private school, were complaining that they were not being paid and had accumulated six months salary arrears.
Although it might sound funny to some that they are complaining just now, I think they are rather noble. It seems that the ethos of their professional is to keep persevering until they reach the absolute limits of their powers.
Complaining aloud about their poor treatment breaches some kind of moral expectation that society has of them. It is no secret that teachers’ salaries are insufficient worldwide. And it’s not because that teachers live expensive lives.
Well, the problem at Alliance High School should not be looked at in isolation. Rather, it depicts what is happening in many private schools all over the country- I believe this is a serious national issue.
If we can recall, some of the education sector issues that dominated the media towards the end of last year, was about the seemingly lousy graduates coming out of the country’s universities.
A parliamentary ad hoc committee was even formed to, among other things, find out the challenges that could be responsible for this scenario.
As it turns out, the Alliance school story might form the background to the problem. How can we expect good graduates when, at lower levels, unmotivated staff are teaching students?
The government liberalized the education sector and many private academic institutions have since come up. While it’s true that these schools are controlled by private investors and therefore not under total government control, the policy of non-intervention, lets some unscrupulous head teachers to conduct school affairs the way they want.
These unscrupulous heads will in all likelihood hamper the government’s goal of providing quality education at all levels.
Some proprietors (and there are several of them) are bent on making as much money as possible. These people rip off teachers and cheat parents by cramming a huge number of students in small classrooms like sardines to maximize profits and hike school fees over night.
If you visited some of these private schools, you would be appalled by some of the tales that the teachers tell. Like what has been reported at Alliance, many teachers accumulated salary arrears for several months until they chose to quit their jobs.
It is my humble suggestion therefore, that government keeps a sharp eye on such schoola and their proprietors to ensure that pupil-teacher ratio is reasonable, genuine teachers are recruited and their salaries are paid on time.
Government will be simply doing its job, just as it does to protect consumers of goods. Unless authorities intervene, education standards in some private schools will keep slipping which in the long term translates into higher number of the lousy graduates.
James Tasamba is a journalist with The New Times