Teachers Threaten to Strike

The Cambodia Independent Teachers Association is threatening a nationwide strike in January if monthly salaries are not raised to $100, Rong Chhun, president of the association, said.

Teachers were given a 30 percent raise in January, with the average salaries for secondary higher education teachers in­creased from $35 to $40, and primary school teacher salaries going from $25 to $34.

But Rong Chhun said recently that teachers will not be happy until the ministry responds to his Oct 10 letter requesting the in­crease to $100. Government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have said there is not enough money in the national budget for such a raise.

Chhay Aun, director general of the ministry’s Administration and Finance Department, said he does not believe that all association members will participate. He said the ministry has no plans to increase wages again. The government, he said, rec­og­nizes the teachers’ right to strike. “And during that time we will find other teachers to replace them,” he said.

The union organized a week-long strike in February 2001, asking for a $100 monthly salary and saying the association represented 80 percent of the nation’s 80,000 teachers. Participation in the strike was mixed.

Rong Chhun said recently he has seen a reduction in school attendance for children age 12 to 14, and he blames the problem on poverty, increased drug use and teachers’ demands for payments for documents or private lessons.

Khim Sophy, a primary teacher in Kompong Chhnang province, sometimes receives only one month’s salary for two months of work. He complained that wages are too small for daily needs.

“I think if the teachers get higher salaries, they will stop asking students to pay extra and the quality of students will rise up because teachers have much time to research new techniques,” he said.

The Ministry of Education last year ordered teachers to stop forcing students to pay ”fees” for private study, higher scores or classroom material.


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