March 19,2014 (JUBA) – Teachers in South Sudan’s border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal are calling on the central government to intervene in a dispute over the lack of salary payments.
Several members of state legislative assembly have confirmed the complete failure by authorities to pay December salaries, as well as January payments in some counties.
A source with direct knowledge of the state ministry of education said current statistics shows that a total 1,143 teachers and 11 support staff members did not receive their January salary payments.
The breakdown shows that seven teachers were not paid in Aweil Centre, 11 in Aweil west, 24 in Aweil South, 20 in Aweil town, 12 in Aweil North and 774 in Aweil East county.
Additionally, 295 teachers from the alternative educational system have also not been paid, while teachers from national supported schools have yet to receive their January and February payments, the official, who asked not to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the press, told Sudan Tribune.
The official said attempts to by teachers earlier this week to receive their salary payments, many of whom had travelled long distances by foot to reach Mabil, the administrative headquarters of Aweil East county, had proven fruitless, describing the situation as a “complete mess indeed”.
Meanwhile, state legislators said that they supported teachers’ struggle for decent wages and work conditions, saying they had repeatedly protested the non-payment of salaries to the governor.
They say schools, children and teachers were all suffering as a result of the situation, which has been exacerbated by the fact that many schools do not have sufficient teachers and therefore there is a lack of strong political to collectively address their grievances.
“Even the teachers who are there, many of them are not even on payroll, many don’t have sufficient salaries. That’s why our education system is going to the ground,” said one legislator.
“As representatives of the people, we unequivocally protested this development and urged national authorities to engage in immediate dialogue with relevant offices to resolve this issue once and for all. Our teachers are not the only poorly paid government workers, but also some of the unfortunate workers who do not receive the little they are supposed to get on time,” he said.
The lawmaker, himself member of a parliamentary committee on education, said he had repeatedly argued that teachers’ salaries, pension schemes and working conditions “should be comparable to those which apply to other professions requiring a similar level of qualifications and should be sufficient to recruit and retain high calibre candidates to the profession and encourage them to remain in the profession”.
The legislator said that without the contribution of teachers and the parliamentary committee to the debate about the future of the teaching profession, governments will continue to be undermined in their attempts to develop better education systems.
“As a teacher myself before coming to parliament, I know [the] condition of the teachers better than any other person and this is why I have always argued that it is essential that teacher associations and union play a central role in developing future strategies for teachers,” he said.