Striking Teachers Complain Of Being Coerced to Return

More teachers returned to work on Tuesday after being on strike for two weeks, but some complained of being forced to do so under threat they would be replaced.

Ten high schools reopened for classes Tuesday, according to Bun Sok, the undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Edu-cation.

Four high schools in Phnom Penh, the Royal University of Phnom Penh and high schools in Battambang and Kompong Cham provinces remained on strike Tuesday, according to Bun Sok.

Some teachers said Tuesday they went back to work out of fear.

“If the teachers did not teach, the Ministry of Education staff supported by the school director said they would choose new teachers to replace us,” said Som Sophala, a teacher at Russei Keo High School. “So the teachers were scared and went back to work. Although, we teach by force, it is only our bodies. You cannot force our souls.”

Pok Than, the secretary of state for education, was not available for comment Tuesday night.

Some teachers had already returned to work Monday, saying that they felt sorry for their ninth and 12th grade students who had to prepare for exams in July.

Teachers from the Phnom Penh Institute of Technology, who returned to work Friday and whose program is controlled by the French government, issued a statement on Saturday, saying that they were forced to work because the “Institute of Technology is like a French colonialism zone.”

The statement also said that they still supported the work stoppage of other teachers and that quality of instruction would suffer because their demands had not been met. “Our soul and spirit are flying away from the class to find justice and dignity for teachers. We will not be held responsible for the falling down of the quality of students’ study,” said the statement.

Teachers promised more work stoppages in the future because their demand of a raise from $20 to $316 a month had not been met. “Although we do teach, we will continue to strike in the future,” said Ly Sakorn, a teacher at Sisowath High School.

The government has repeatedly said that it does not have the money to pay for the requested raise.

It is unknown how many teachers were on strike across the country, but strikes were confirmed in at least 10 schools at some point in the past two weeks.

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