Hundreds of pupils in Rumbek East County of Lakes State on Thursday staged peaceful protests over non-payment of volunteer teachers’ salaries.
The protesting primary school pupils demanded payment of five months’ salary arrears for voluntary teachers and protection of their teachers from arrests.
Complaints by volunteer teachers started early this year after President Salva Kiir directed relevant government ministries to ensure that primary and secondary education is free.
In March, the national minister of education underscored that charging school fees is illegal and directed all public school administrators not to collect money from parents.
Peter Agany, a primary eight pupil at Atiaba Primary School, told Radio Tamazuj during the protests that the pupils across Rumbek East County are unhappy about the neglect of volunteer teachers.
“The reason we took to the street is to demand the right of our teachers to get paid and to be protected from arrests, “he said.
He said they had not been taught for more than a week after volunteer teachers had bid goodbye to the public schools, throwing fresh challenges of insufficient teachers in the area.
Marial Machuei, a member of the teachers union in Rumbek East County, said they had joined a peaceful demonstration because there have been no lessons given to the pupils since last week after the volunteer teachers stopped working.
“In Western Bahr Naam, there are 260 volunteer teachers who have left teaching and I don’t know how many teachers have left on the other of Eastern Bahr Naam,” he said.
Macuei revealed that there was a disagreement between the teachers and the state minister of education, pointing out that there will be a meeting between both sides on how to find an amicable solution.
For his part, the state minister of general education, Nelson Makoi Makur, dismissed the allegations of non-payment of teachers. He said the Ministry of Education plans to screen 4,000 teachers to recruit only those who are qualified.
“We have not yet received a report of teachers not paid in Rumbek East County. Our teachers on a government payroll receive their monthly salaries. We do not have any information about teachers not being paid for five months. What kind of teachers are they? I have no idea,” he said.
“We don’t expect teachers to collect community contribution any longer, and we say no more collection of community contribution. If there are volunteer teachers who expect to be paid through community contributions, then we do not collect community contributions anymore. We are saying let them wait until we enrol them into the payment system and the government will pay them,” he said.
“If there are such kind of teachers, I will tell them to wait for examinations on date 10 June, and if they pass the interview, then we are going to recruit them and employ them as government teachers,” he added.