Some members of parliament recently suggested the idea of government rolling out special incentives for teachers to help uplift their welfare, which, they say will go a long way in boosting the quality of education in the country.
The suggested incentives include a special duty free shop where teachers can buy groceries at subsidized prices, and providing their children with free education.
The MPs’ proposals last week, on Friday, June 12, during the approval of an assessment report on issues affecting quality education, follow a request of a monthly minimum salary Rwf80,000 for a primary school teacher by the National Union of Teachers in Rwanda (SNER) in 2016.
The union argued that minimum pay can somehow help a teacher meet their basic needs such as meals, transport, and accommodation.
A teacher conducts class at College St Andre in Kigali. MPs want the Government to extend special incentives to teachers./ Dan Nsengiyumva.
Currently, a freshly recruited primary school teacher earns less than Rwf50,000 a month.
The argument is that teachers are financially constrained to afford even the basic needs of life, being among the least paid civil servants in the country.
MP Frank Habineza suggested that there should be a special shop for teachers just like there is a shop for the army, police and correction service, as well as similar incentives that go towards community patrol officers (abanyerondo), so that they are able to buy commodities at affordable prices.
“Because a teacher gets a low salary, we should probably think of something like Umwalimu Shop to help them easily access basic groceries for their families which whelp to improve the quality of education,” he said.
Techers have welcomed the idea.
Laurent Habuhazi, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire Karama in Karama Sector, in Huye District, Southern Province.
He has been a primary school teacher since 2016, and he gets Rwf50,000 salary per month, which he describes as meager.
“I have to pay for accommodation and meals. Such salary cannot even cover subsistence expenses,” he said adding that personal development initiative like building a house remains a mirage.
Though there is Umwalimu SACCO, a teachers’ Savings and Credits Cooperative, Habuhazi said that small salary is a hindrance for him to benefit from the cooperative.
Umwalimu SACCO offers loans to teachers based on their salary at relatively lower interest rate of 11 percent - compared to loans from other commercial banks whose interest rate is between 14 per cent and 20 per cent
“If I get a loan, and say Rwf25,000 is deducted from my monthly salary to pay back the loan, I will be getting Rwf25,000 per month, which cannot cover my basic needs such as accommodation and meals,” he said.
He said that the recommendation to set up shops where they can get groceries cheaply.
“If a person was spending Rwf20,000 on meals, and the expense drops to Rwf10,000 [a month], then they can save the Rwf10,000 for development purposes,” he said.
The General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Rwanda (SNER), Stephanié Mukangango said special shops for teachers would be helpful.
She however acknowledges the government’s interventions already in place such as Umwalimu SACCO in which she said government injects Rwf5 billion per year to support teachers get much needed credit.
She said that in 2019, there were 66,401 teachers in primary and secondary public schools, indicating that the former accounted for 42,062, while the latter were 24,339 teachers.
‘A teacher deserves more’
For MP Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye, a teacher has a great role to play in achieving quality education, and should be motivated to do their work.
“There should be incentives to teachers such as guaranteeing them that their children will study up to university free of charge, That can motivate a teacher to like that [teaching] job, as well as commit to ensuring that a student gets quality education,” she said.
MP Christine Mukabunani said that motivation for teachers is vital to the attainment of quality education.
“A teacher is at the core of education. As long as they are not provided with adequate means to provide for their families, quality education will not be achieved,” Mukabunani said, underscoring the need for raising teacher’ remuneration.Follow https://twitter.com/EmNtirenganya