The going remains tough for teachers, forcing many into seeking extra sources of income to make ends meet despite pay increments.
It is particularly hard on primary school teachers whose pay — despite the general 10 per cent salary increment as at March and the annual performance-based bonuses for the past four years — does not match the rise in prices of goods and services.
And even with gradual annual increment, teachers’ pay still trails that of other public servants with the same or equal qualifications.
The disparity barely changes even after the Treasury announced it would spend Rwf11 billion to implement the 10 per cent pay increment recently decided by the Cabinet effective March, a move described as aimed at addressing the gap in compensation and ensure staff retention in the teaching profession.
For example, it is expected that primary schools teachers, who are more than a half the total number of teachers in the country, will still earning less on average with a take-home package of Rwf48,000 from the current Rwf44,000 when the pay raise comes into effect.
“The increment is a good thing but it’s still too low. How does a teacher without any other source of income survive with this pay given demands of the job ranging from preparing lessons, marking assignments and a number of other teaching duties?” argued Jean Paul Si-bomana, a teacher in Northern Musanze District.
Mr Sibomana feels teachers get an even raw deal, compared with civil servants.
“A secretary of the Cell with the same qualification as the primary school teacher makes Rwf96,000. See that difference in pay yet you go to the same market,” Mr Sibomana said.
According to him, the salary of a secretary of the Cell with A2 certificate was even higher than that of a teacher with a diploma (A1), earning Rwf90 000 per month.
Graduate degree holders in the teaching profession earn about Rwf127,000 per month when civil servants with similar qualification take home more than Rwf250,000.
Low purchasing power
Teachers argue that unless the increment is consistent, yearly, to about 100 per cent, teachers’ already-eroded, purchasing power will remain low, leaving them to struggle to pay for goods and services like utilities, transport and housing whose cost keep rising.
Educationists said the situation was complicating retention in the teaching profession, with majority of teachers always angling to quit over low pay.
According to Faustin Harelimana, a veteran teacher and former teachers’ union leader, the low pay was to blame for the prevailing high turnover in the teaching profession.
“When a teacher gets any opportunity to switch careers, one does it without hesitating.
We are still far from motivating a teacher to stick to the profession, fully meets its demands and deliver the desired output when the same teacher’s pay cannot keep up with the rising cost of living,” Mr Harelimana said.
Low pay persists despite the pay top-ups and bonuses under the recently introduced special statute for tutors that saw the basic pay increase by around one-third.
According to the statute, teachers are entitled to salary increase after completing three years of good performance along with the annual performance-based bonuses ranging from three to five per cent salary increment.
Minister of Education Eugene Mutimura said due to budgetary constraints the government could only raise the pay further upon availability of means.
“This increment will have significant improvement on the teachers’ living condition when considered together with a number of other incentives that aim to support them such as the provision of cows, housing scheme and the low interest loans through their sacco,”he said.