Firing of 1,000s of teachers to affect Umwalimu Sacco

Monday October 1 2018

SACCO

Umwalimu Sacco headquarters in Remera, Rwanda. PHOTO COURTESY 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The teachers’ Savings and Credit Co-operative has moved to avert potential losses as a result of the impending layoffs of “non-professional” teachers by the education regulator.

The Ministry of Education plans to fire non-education degree holders in the teaching profession starting in 2020. The move is expected to see thousands of non-qualified teachers in all nursery, primary and secondary schools terminated.

In a notice to all the branches, Umwalimu SACCO asked the managers to exercise caution as lending to members who are among those set to be sacked could result in losses for the financial institution.

According to the education ministry, all non-professional teachers had a three-year grace period ending next year to get post graduate certificates in education in order to be allowed to continue teaching.

New requirements

A circular to all Sacco branches dated September 20 says that all loan applicants will have to present their notarised degrees as part of the requirements for loans.

Teachers with non-education related degrees can only qualify for loans payable before December 31, 2019.

“Teachers with non-teaching qualifications already having loans that they will be servicing after December 31, 2019 and whose contributions cannot equate the remaining debt are not eligible for any further loans,” Laurence Uwambaje, Umwalimu Sacco managing director wrote in a memo to the branches.

According to Ms Uwambaje, the restrictions are also applicable to all non-disbursed and unprocessed loans or applications at all stages.

The exact number of teachers likely to be affected is not yet known as the Rwanda Education Board did not respond to our request for the details, and the extent to which their presence in the teaching service affected the quality of education.

The move is likely to affect thousands of Sacco members who are understood to have neither attained a postgraduate diploma in education nor undergone the four year undergraduate courses in education — a requirement for one to be a teacher as per the special statute for teachers enacted in 2016.

High cost

On their side, teachers decried the high cost of the courses vis-à-vis their low pay, hence many were still unable to go for training three years later.

Teachers rank among the least paid public servants in the country, earning between Rwf44,000 Rwf135,000 net per month depending on the degree one holds.

The year-long postgraduate teacher training course costs over Rwf600,000 in tuition fees. The fees in addition to registration fees and transport fares, among other costs see teachers required to part with at least Rwf1,000,000.

“Despite the Ministry of Education being well aware of our plight as the worst-remunerated public servants, there hasn’t been any mechanism or special arrangements to help us pursue these courses. It has been impossible for most of us to upgrade in the absence of a loan scheme in which one can be allowed to study and pay later,” said Emmanuel Musabyimana, a teacher in the Southern Province.

Mr Musabyimana said that unlike teachers in secondary schools, most primary schoolteachers were unable to pursue the courses due to low pay.

Poor quality of education has partly been blamed on unqualified teaching staff at most schools.

The planned sacking of unqualified teachers is a worry for the Sacco as a number may leave behind uncleared debt, plunging it in a funding crisis.