Friday, 20 March 2009
Written by Sam Rith
The Phnom Penh Post
TEACHER associations criticised Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday after he said at an education summit that he could not raise teacher salaries, though he really wanted to.
"I would like to inform you ... those who are in charge of education ... I really want to raise your salaries but our budget is limited," Hun Sen said during concluding remarks at the National Education Congress Wednesday, which was attended by teachers, NGO members and development partners.
"And where should we find the money [to raise salaries]?" he asked, adding that now the world's economy was slowing down, the people who used to have incomes are losing them.
"When a salary is raised, it has to be raised forever," he said.
However, Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association, said the government today would have no problem raising teacher salaries, which he believed should be lifted to 800,000 to 1,000,000 riels (US$200-$250) a month for a suitable living standard.
"I think the government has enough money to raise teachers' salary and would do so if the prime minister wanted to raise teachers' salary to a suitable standard of living," he said.
He said the money could come from tax collecting, eliminating corruption or simply wasting less money on the delegation that usually accompanies the prime minster at such ceremonial events.
"As far as I know, each delegate receives 2,000,000 riels plus expenses on gasoline when they accompany the prime minister to inauguration celebrations or other missions," Rong Chhun said.
He added that Cambodia currently has over 100,000 teachers working throughout the country, and that "93 percent of them have to have another job on top of teaching in order to support their families".
According to the association president, primary school teachers currently get paid 100,000 riels, lower secondary school teachers around 200,000 riels and upper secondary school teachers about 250,000 riels.
A recent report conducted by NGO Education Partnership claimed that 99 percent of them said a teacher's salary alone is not enough for them to live on.
The report stated that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport budget for 2008 was more than twice what it was in 2000: $508,865,000 compared to $209,246,000.
In the same period, teachers starting salaries are anecdotally reported to have increased from $20 since 1999 to $30 today.
"At present, salary levels make it impossible for teachers to afford the basic necessities ... and leave teachers with no other option but to seek other income generating activities," the report stated.