TEACHER'S MIND : I am interested in the small incentives

THIS week started on a good note as World Teachers’ Day; celebrated worldwide on the fifth day of October since 1993 after it was designated by UNESCO. Falling on a Monday many teachers must have been so happy to have the day off. 

THIS week started on a good note as World Teachers’ Day; celebrated worldwide on the fifth day of October since 1993 after it was designated by UNESCO. Falling on a Monday many teachers must have been so happy to have the day off. 

National celebrations were held at Club La Palisse Nyandungu and the Minister for State for Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Mathias Harebamungu officiated at the function.

The teachers in attendance were informed of a salary increase while the best performers were rewarded for their good work.

The minister acknowledged the fact that teachers’ salaries are still significantly low in Rwanda and other parts of the world.

“The salaries are still very low in Rwanda and the world; parents should join the government in rewarding teachers by giving them small incentives,” he said (The New Times, Oct 6, 2009).

The above statement carries a lot of weight and should not go without analysis.

It is no longer a secret that teachers have long occupied the lower echelons of the salary chain especially in the developing world.

Although a salary increase was mentioned at the teachers’ celebrations, the primary teachers’ representative was quick to point out that some teachers have gone for months unpaid while others are still waiting for their retirement benefits.

The reason why the minister called on parents to join in rewarding teachers with small incentives seems to be an implication that government alone cannot meet the teachers’ welfare needs.

Other stakeholders need to come on board if any thing is to be achieved in this line.

I was particularly attracted by the minister’s choice of words especially where he talks about the ‘small incentives.’

I am one of the few in the profession who is not really moved by the better salaries call. Everywhere teachers are always asking for salary increases. Several online news sites had stories of salary claims by teachers in countries like Philippines, Nigeria and others.

The stories of teachers waiting for their salary arrears to be cleared are as old as some news agencies.

Interestingly, teachers’ salaries in most developing countries only get to be increased when national elections are beckoning.

In other words, the role of teachers is often only appreciated when elections are knocking, thus serving only as bait for their support.

I think it is time for teachers to start focusing on the so called small incentives instead of endlessly crying for better salaries. I believe teachers have reached the unfortunate point where they seem to have accepted their fate as low income earners no matter how loud their cries get.

However there is no need to take on a fatalistic attitude. I think efforts must also be directed towards better working conditions in form of the small incentives.

I wish instead of better salaries, teachers would press for things like transport to the schools, accommodation and or even better meals. What most teachers do not realise is that the little money they earn is often spent on things like transport, accommodation and health.

Yet if these were provided by the schools the teachers will be able to make some savings at the end of the day.

Several teachers from neighbouring countries are finding it hard to work here because some of these small incentives are missing. Meanwhile other professions are sticking to their jobs because of small incentives like allowances, transport, accommodation, training opportunities for career development even access to modern communication like internet.

The role played by teachers play in society should be reason enough for them not to feel shy about demanding these small incentives.

I know some teachers who walk long distances to school, walk back home for lunch, then back for afternoon lessons and then walk back home at the end of the day.

Why should you always ask for better pay and not cheaper means of transport up the hill where you teach?

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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