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Jonglei to suspend housing allowances as teacher strike enters third week

By John Actually

March 7, 2011 (BOR) - Amid a three-week strike over housing allowances by primary school teachers in Jonglei, the state government has decided to suspend allowances to all government appointees, including teachers until the budget for 2011 is finalized.

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Jonglei state finance minister Aquila Maluth Mam at his office in Bor. March 7, 2011 (ST)

Primary school teachers across Jonglei went on strike on February 22, following teachers in Bor who began striking the day before. The striking teachers are asking to be paid housing allowances, which they are mandated to receive according to the state council of ministers.

All government employees in Jonglei were paid housing allowances in January apart from teachers. The suspension of allowances will back be dated to February.

Jonglei finance minister, Aquila Maluth Mam, told Sudan Tribune that ministry of education in Jonglei has been unable to find the money to pay the allowance to teachers. He said that the state ministry receives 75-80 percent of the budget from the South Sudan government with over 20-25 percent to be provided by the state. There are 2,941 primary teachers in Jonglei’s 11 counties.

Mam also mentioned that the state has a “huge” deficit in the budget due to lack of revenues. He said that the state wanted to give housing allowances to state senior officials in January but the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) minister of labor and public service issued a circular declaring that all the state ministries appointees, which includes teachers, should be paid housing allowances.

“We were trying to boost the moral of senior officials in the ministries by giving them housing allowances”, he said.

Mam said the state council of ministers had made a resolution to suspend the housing allowances until the New Year budget is completed. He added that the January housing allowances will be paid to teachers.

Mam told Sudan Tribune that Jonglei’s education and health ministries received a plan to pay allowances on top of salaries from the South Sudan government but when the state tried to pay the teachers the extra money they could not find the funds.

“When the state tried to put in some money to pay allowances, the money was not enough to cover all the state workers. The state needs around 6 million Sudanese pounds to pay all the workers which is hard to come about.”

Teachers have vowed to reopen schools once they are paid January’s allowances.