Teaching is indeed a calling because the joy of dispensing knowledge and shaping people’s mindsets into an attitude of world changers is incredible. Teachers are like second parents to children and for this reason they are an honour to the nation.
However, things are not as rosy as I am trying to paint. Several people have difficulty appreciating teachers and yet find it easier to reward those that hardly matter. Despite the contribution teachers make to societies worldwide, the remuneration is often unattractive.
Of course teachers’ demands for better pay and welfare should be placed against the capacity of their employers who should in turn respond adequately. And since education is a basic right, teachers have few options but to continue doing their job at a named price as determined by their employers.
In Rwanda the Government has received several requests from teachers in this regard and indeed on a number of occasions positive responses have surfaced.
The salaries of teachers have been increased in the recent past, Mwalimu SACCO, a teachers saving scheme, is up and running. With the support of the Government, teachers are now assured of receiving their pay on time unlike in the past.
Unfortunately, the same nice things cannot be said for private schools in this country. Let me first point out that a good number of private schools do not fall in this errant category.
There are quite a number of private schools where the conditions are way better than what the government can offer. These are often schools that are able to charge a lot more in terms of school fees.
In most below average private schools, teachers are silently enduring what can only be described as exploitation. Tear-jacking stories abound in these schools where teachers have to wear brave faces and do their job.
In an effort to make profit, school owners are pushing the burden towards their teaching staff in a mixture of lies and outright disrespect. Logic demands that to make profit one has to increase revenues and keep expenditures low.
Teachers in these schools must adjust to the fact that their salaries will always be delayed. As I write this, there is a school that has not paid its teachers a single dime since the third term began—apparently, the administration of this school that I shall not mention, has been equipped with a sly excuse for their shortfall.
Sometimes school owners claim that they have not received money from FARG in case the school has some students sponsored by the organisation. While all this is happening, teachers have to look for new excuses to give to their landlords and other creditors.
Teachers in these schools even fear to talk about their situation as in many cases, the school owners do not offer them job contracts or appointment letters. With this technicality, the teachers are cornered to working for no pay. They could quite but to where? Maybe sue the school, but at what fee?
What becomes of the education of the students who diligently pay their school fees?
The staff turnover in these schools is quite high as those considered rebellious are summarily fired and replaced with other desperate recruits. And since salaries are based on one’s qualifications it is not surprising that the owners of these errant schools prefer to hire low grade teachers thus, compromising the quality of education offered to students.
The workload that teachers bear in these schools is also significantly heavier than that of their colleagues in government schools. School owners purposely employ a few teachers to do a lot of work in order to cut costs. At the end of the day you have teachers doing more work for less and irregular pay.
These desperate teachers working under demeaning conditions continue to suffer as their lying and cheating bosses smile all the way to the bank. Something must be done.
No one should get away with the exploitation of teachers because at the end of the day, it’s the students who get exploited of quality education and consequently the nation is in the long run, starved of a credible and skilled workforce.