There has been a renewed debate on teachers’ salaries since the Education ministry announced its allocation to wage bill in the 2016/17 Budget.
Teachers’ salaries in education budget for 2014/15 was over Rwf77.734 billion, over Rwf82.640 billion in 2015/16 and it has been increased to over Rwf88.948 billion in 2016/17 Budget.
This has reignited debate with some teachers calling on the government to set a minimum salary for teachers at Rwf80,000.
The argument is that teachers are financially constrained to afford even the basic needs of life.
Faustin Harelimana, the Secretary General of National Union of Teachers in Rwanda (SNER), warns teachers could fail to meet basic needs with the rising cost of living.
Harelimana broke down the expenses as: 25 kilogrammes of rice per month, four litres of cooking oil, 20 kilogrammes of beans, four bars of soap, Rwf20,000 house rent, Rwf1,000 daily transport fare, Rwf1,000 for meals a day among other basic needs.
It would require Rwf150,000 to cover such needs, he said.
He said while the passion to do the work is still present, its difficult to maintain teachers’ morale and keep them responsive to the ambitious direction set by the government.
A freshly recruited certificate holder teacher (A2 primary school teacher) earns Rwf44,000 per month, a diploma holder (A1) earns Rwf90,000, while a graduate (A0) earns Rwf120,000.
Harelimana says it’s hard to tell teachers to do more when the effects of meager pay reach the classroom.
Talking to The New Times last Friday, Harelimana suggested that primary school teachers (certificate holders) should earn at least Rwf80,000.
“We appreciate the laudable initiatives which have helped bring about improvements in the education sector over the years, such as construction of infrastructure but enhancing teachers’ welfare is a crucial aspect in education development,” he noted.
In May, 2016, the Senate held a meeting with teachers and the Ministry of Education on quality of education.
The ministry suggested a number of ideas that would help motivate teachers.
These included promoting teachers deservingly and providing them with incentives including a 3 per cent salary increment each year after at least three years of service.
Septh Ndahayo, a teacher at Centre Scolaire Nyabisinde in Musanze District, said a teacher’s salary does not match the current cost of living.
“Rwf41,000 net salary per month for a certificate holder cannot help a teacher foot bills including meals, rent, transport costs as well as fees,’ he said.
Harelimana warns that teachers have to make up for the meager salary somewhere else to be able to lead decent life.
This, he said, results into having some skilled teachers quit education sector yet this adversely affects the quality of education.
Speaking to the media during the 2016/17 Joint Review of Education Sector, the biannual session that brought together all education stakeholders last Thursday in Kigali, the Minister for Education, Dr Papias Malimba Musafiri, said during the 2016/17 fiscal year, the government will continue to prioritise enhancing the welfare of a teacher as a motivation factor.
But he noted that increasing teachers’ salaries alone wasn’t necessarily going to improve teachers’ welfare, adding the government would continously come up with non-monetary initiatives to motivate teachers.
“For instance, in the budget, the government has allocated Rwf5 billion this financial year and Rwf1 billion in the next year to the Umwalimu Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Umwalimu SACCO) to enable teachers easily access affordable loans to develop themselves,” he noted.
However, some teachers expressed concerns that the amount of credit they can access cannot make a significant change.
The minister said the government approved a special statute of teachers, on their evaluation and promotion, which is believed will help further improve teacher’s status.
Data from the ministry shows that there were 41,192 teachers in primary schools in 2014, the number grew to 42,005 in 2015. For secondary schools, there were 27,116 teachers in 2014, which increased to 27,644 in 2015.