Lakes state, News

Pupils, Teachers on protest

By Yang Ater Yang

As teachers in Rumbek laid down tools, protesting enrolment into government payroll and salary increment, the learners are on the streets to demonstrate absence of instructors in the classrooms.

Most affected are volunteer teachers in Rumbek East County of Lakes State, South Sudan, whose plights have further been promptly supported by the learners, joining in the protest.

Pupils who could not afford silence like the teachers, opted to street marching with placards in Rumbek town in exposure of their displeasure.

The demand of the pupils is that the government addresses the grievances of teachers, for classes to resume.

Mr. John Thon Malual, the head teacher of Atiaba primary school told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Tuesday that a number of volunteer teachers have left due to lack of salary.

“It is not yet a strike, but the volunteer teachers decided to leave teaching because the government does not want to increase their payment, and the teachers have now left the schools,” he said.

Atiaba Primary School has only two teachers, including the head teacher, on government payroll with the state ministry of general education.

“We have a total of 1,079 learners, and the number teachers on pay roll in this school are two: my deputy and me. We cannot manage the huge number of learners,” head teacher stressed.

He called on Lakes State government to increase their salary from 15,000 SSP to 36,000 SSP and to recruit volunteers and add them into the payroll.

Mr. Thon warned that if this is not done, the government’s slogan of “quality education will not be attainable in 2023 in Lakes State.

He said only a few teachers in Lakes State benefit from the ministry of education’s capitation grant, while the majority is not being paid.

In Rumbek East County, Nhiak primary school head teacher, Mayor Dor Apac, also suffers similar situation of lack of teachers and volunteers quitting job over non-payment.

He said volunteers who taught in his school for 5 months without salary, despite the state government’s unfulfilled promise to enroll them into the payroll, have also left.

“The volunteers have promised never to teach pupils again, and this is what is happening across Rumbek East County; all the volunteers in this school have left the school premises,” Dor grumbled.

Nhiak Primary School has a total of 748 learners, yet only 2 are teachers on government payroll, meaning the school entirely depended on volunteers, who are now waging a silent strike against authorities.

“I have reported this serious issue to the Payam education supervisor. We don’t know what will happen to the learners and the community,” he said.

Mr. Dor said the state government deceived the head teachers to recruit volunteers and later delayed their payment, claiming they are not qualified teachers, unless they sit for an examination.

“Time is money, and many of these volunteers have families; they have children to take care of,” he explained.

Dor is worried that if the government totally failed to pay the volunteer teachers, the schools in Rumbek East County would close down automatically.

“The volunteers have started a strike. Now, pupils are playing in the compound since morning waiting for the food to eat only and go back home instead of lessons from the teacher,” he lamented.

Mr. Santino Matur Majok, an Arabic language volunteer teacher at Nhiak Primary School, said that he left after teaching for nearly 5 months without incentives.

“We are 4 days now without giving lessons to the learners because the state ministry of education does not want to pay us our salary of 5 months,” he said.

According to Matur, a lot of debt has accumulated on them over the period of working without pay and it becomes difficult to continue.

“We have too many bills of things that we have taken on loan, including tea and some food items for our families, to the point we are no longer being given anything for loan by the businesspeople,” he noted.

“The government is not daring to pay our salary; that’s why we decided to stop teaching,” he echoed.

Matur claimed that the budget for Arabic teachers in all the schools is out and is before the state minister of education, but he doesn’t want to pay.

“What is he doing with the Arabic teacher’s budget that was passed?” he asked.

Meanwhile, a male pupil from Pacong primary school in Rumbek East County (whose names couldn’t be used here since he is a minor) told the media, in three weeks’ time, no teacher has entered their classroom.

“I’m a candidate in primary 8. Can we pass the national examinations if we are not taught well?” he questioned.

The pupils promise to continue protesting until the state government responds to address the concerns of teachers in Lakes State.

Meanwhile, attempts to reach Lakes State Minister of General Education and Instruction, Nelson Makoi Makur, for comments were futile, by press time.

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