Schools grapple with maternity leave, teacher substitute pay

Education minister Eugene Mutimura addresses the parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony last week. / Sam Ngendahimana

The absence of a budget allocation to pay stand-in teachers for those on maternity leave has forced schools to find for solutions on their own.

According to the Ministry of Education, they need more than Rwf1.3 billion needed to pay substitutes for at least 4,320 teachers in primary school and 2,880 in secondary who go on maternity leave every year.

Félicité Musabyimana, Head Teacher of Groupe Scolaire Kabilizi B in Ngoma District, said that female teachers get three-month fully paid maternity leave once up from the one month and a half they used to get before the maternity leave benefits scheme came into force in November 2016.

“Teacher substitutes should be given priority because students cannot spend three months without studying, that is a long period,” she said.

She said that the issue might be aggravated if more than one teachergoes on maternity leave in one year.

Samuel Uwihanganye, Head Teacher of Groupe Scolaire Karengera in Nyamasheke District said that when a mother, who for instance was teaching sciences, goes on maternity leave, the school tries to cope with the situation by using other teachers in the science department.

This means that they have to teach the hours they were assigned plus those of the mother on leave.

“The issue is a burden to schools. If the district factors that in the budget, it can help schools and improve the quality of education,” he said.

Last week, Eugene Mutimura, Minister of Education, requested the help of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony on the issue so that the money could be provided in the next budget.

“This is a major issue where we need at least Rwf1.3 billion so that we are able to provide substitutes for teachers who go on maternity leave countrywide, whereby the substitutes are given a short-term contract of three months,” Mutimura said.

Jonathan Nzayikorera, Director of Fiscal Decentralisation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning acknowledged the gravity of the issue, but observed that it should not be dealt with in terms of money alone.

“All public employees with contracts should be approved by the Ministry of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA). It is our responsibility as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and MIFOTRA to consider a way to address it,” he said.