For the country’s teachers, what is given with one hand seems to be taken away with the other.
A few months ago, the Cabinet endorsed a 10 per cent increment in their salaries.
A primary teacher who has been earning a salary of Rwf42,000, will earn Rwf46,400. A secondary teacher who was earning Rwf125,000 will now earn Rwf137,000 by end of March.
Their trade union is now enforcing an increase in monthly deductions on their salaries, which basically eats up their small salary increment endorsed by government.
The teachers’ trade union, which is primarily responsible for advocating for their welfare, wrote to district authorities requesting to start deducting 0.5 per cent off every teacher’s basic salary effective end of March.
This would be an increment of up to ten times from the usual monthly member contribution of Rwf100, and will see each teacher’s contribution rise to between Rwf200 to Rwf1,000 per month depending on their salary levels.
The teachers are perennially the most underpaid public servants, despite working in the most difficult conditions.
On top of their monthly expenses for food, rent, transport and others, the teachers contribute a certain amount to their national savings co-operative.
Therefore, increasing trade union contributions will make an already bad situation worse.
What is even more unfortunate is that the trade union contributions are mandatory, so the increment of the fees is non-negotiable.
This comes at a time when teachers are pushing for accountability from the same officials for a previously collected sum amounting to Rwf40 million, but up to now nothing has been explained about how that money was used to improve the lives of teachers.
The trade union has previously come under criticism over mismanagement of members’ contributions as well as not playing a substantial role in voicing the plight of teachers.
There are more than 64,000 teachers in the country, if each is deducted an average of Rwf450 each month, the union will have collected close to Rwf360 million.
This fund should be used to help lift their lives, and can do well in finding solutions to the Sacco loans that most teachers are wrestling with.
And just like many other labour groups, teachers need to be protected from forced contributions.