Teachers are protesting a decision by their trade union to increase monthly fees up to 10 times, through direct deductions from their salaries, to fund its operations.
The teachers’ union, Syndicat National des Enseignants au Rwanda (SNER) wrote to district mayors asking them to implement the 0.5 per cent levy off every teacher’s basic salary from March.
This will see individual contributions rise to between Rwf200 and Rwf1,000 per month, depending on the salary scale. Currently, teachers pay a flat rate of Rwf100. “We are requesting the staff handling teachers’ salaries to start enforcing the deductions from this month,” reads the letter dated March 5.
SNER said that the deductions, which will run for an unspecified period, were approved by a general assembly and that teacher representatives had given their nod.
However, teachers say they were not consulted. They plan to petition respective districts to block the deductions.
They say that according to the rules, individual teachers voluntarily sign forms assenting to any deductions, but this time around, members only heard about the new fee from the media, and that they did not know what the money would be used for.
“We do not understand how the union can increase the contributions without consulting us,” said a teacher in Rusizi. “My only hope is that nobody touches my salary since I have not signed any agreement with the union.”
The teachers said that the decision to increase union dues happened at a time members had been pushing officials to account for contributions amounting to over Rwf40 million. The trade union was founded in 1996 to advocate for the teachers who are the least paid public servants. It has come under criticism over how it manages members’ contributions and its failure to voice their plight.
The union used to collect over Rwf1.2 million monthly from the more than 12,000 teachers at inception. The amount has increased five-fold on account of the teacher population growing to over 64,000. But teachers worry that the they will not benefit from the increased collections.
“With each teacher contributing Rwf475 on average, we wonder where this money will go to, and what projects the trade union is involved in that would benefit teachers,” said Emmanuel Musabyimana, a teacher from Gisagara District, adding that the fees, though it appears minimal, would strain teachers who are already burdened with other deductions including Sacco loans.
The current SNER leadership headed by Stephanie Mukangango blamed the loss of funds on its predecessor who were ousted late last year.
Attempts to get a comment from the management were futile by press time.
In its letter to mayors, SNER Secretary Stephanie Mukangango, only indicated that teacher representatives in all districts had given it the go ahead to implement the new levies.
The Rwanda Education Board boss Irene Ndayambaje said that teachers’ grievances would only be handled through the right mechanisms at the trade union level otherwise it would amount to interference in its operations.