Lawmakers Urge Action Teacher Pay

Saying that no salary provisions were written into Cambodia’s draft 2003 budget, several Fun­cinpec and Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers Friday demanded the government raise teacher wages to $100 a month.

For years, Cambodia’s educators, who earn an average of around $25 to $30 a month, have called on the government to increase their salaries. The low wages have been blamed for rampant corruption in the country’s education system, where teachers accept bribes for good grades, or ask for extra money for instruction supplies.

Though he did not criticize the government for not paying teachers higher salaries, National Assembly President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh admitted that teachers had difficulty supporting themselves on their wages.

“We need to raise the salaries of teachers, because teachers are working hard,” the prince said Friday.

Spending for education in­creased 13 percent to $81 million in next year’s draft budget—the largest proposed raise among Cambodia’s government sectors.

Rong Chhun, head of the Cambo­dian Independent Teach­ers’ Association, said Friday his union still plans to hold a Dec 16 protest outside the National Assembly.

Despite vowing to improve Cambodia’s education system, a key to faster development, critics claim the government is in fact doing the opposite—failing to pay out all of the budget money allocated to education and discouraging the unionization of teachers.

Teachers’ union officials accused police of breaking up a union recruitment meeting Tuesday in Kompong Thom.

Only a small number of students pass their secondary school exams, and Cambodia was one of only two countries where the literacy rate declined in the 1990s.

By contrast, lawmakers pointed out that the draft budget provides little more than $1 million for increased judges’ and prosecutors’ salaries, despite international criticism of Cambodia’s weak and corrupt judiciary.

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