The New Times (Kigali)

6 October 2012

Rwanda: Celebrating World Teachers' Day

The Minister of Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta, yesterday, announced that the issue of teachers' salary delays would be rectified soon.

Education is the only single channel to better quality of life

He made the pledge in a speech broadcast on the national radio to commemorate the World Teachers' Day held in all sectors of the country.

Observed annually on October 5 since 1994 when it was created by UNESCO, World Teachers' Day aims at mobilizing support for teachers, by taking into challenges they meet during the execution of their duties.

This is the 11th time the day is observed in Rwanda.

While calling for respect to teachers, Dr. Biruta, however, urged them to continue safeguarding education standards in the country as one of the means towards assuring quality life of the citizens.

"Teachers' day is a special day. Education is the only single channel to better quality of life. Teachers are the pillars of education and if they do not play their roles effectively, the quality of education wouldn't be achieved. Therefore, a teacher needs care and respect," asserted the minister.

He added that the government was doing its best to improve teachers' welfare citing the recent 10 percent salary increment, setting up of their own bank, providing them with cattle as well as helping them with decent housing.

Various teachers interviewed by The New Times in various parts of the country said that despite the challenges encountered in the profession, there was need for passion and patience in order to achieve positive changes.

A teacher at College Saint André, Jean Pierre Rusingizwa, said that since joining the profession, he has realized many benefits in life despite persistent outcries over poor remuneration.

We have recently received a 10 percent salary increment while other sections of the public service have got a lot in the new salary structure. However, I have managed to do all I can to meet my needs," he added.

Bibiane Mukarusagara, a veteran teacher for the last 32 years at Kivugiza Primary School, in Nyarugenge district, testified that the profession had helped her overcome a lot of difficulties despite the odds.

"My children have received quality education, thanks to the fact that I was a teacher. I have also joined Umwalimu SACCO and bought a laptop for my child, despite my meagre salary," she said as she despised those looking down upon teachers as poor.

Umwalimu Sacco is an initiative introduced by the government where teachers are encouraged to pool their resources together and the government contributes some money to help teachers access loans that they can use to start income-generating activities.

A teacher who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but opted for anonymity, commended the working conditions of Rwandan teachers.

"Here, one can access a loan from a bank as well as Umwalimu SACCO. I managed to pay for my university studies and I am now in the second year. Besides, we have other cooperatives that help a lot unlike in my home country," the secondary school teacher at a local school pointed out.

Théoneste Niyomugabo, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire Butare, said teachers can now engage in small businesses as well as study.

"But there is also a big difference between teachers and other civil servants because we get lower salaries," says Niyomugabo.

Another teacher, who preferred to use her first name, Mary, called for harmonisation of teachers salaries with those of other civil servants.

"We appreciate the salary increment but we need this to be harmonised with that of civil servants."

What the teachers say

"Our salaries have been increased but it is not enough compared to the standards of living. However, we are given loans and a person can do a small business. But the problem is that the salary is still low.

"In private schools things are different from public, I now earn three times more than what I used to earn when I was in public school. I started university, but the salary is still not enough to pay tuition fees"

"A teacher is safe, we get a SACCO loan, if you need money you are given but the if you compare with the standards of living, the money we get is not enough. The government should do its best to change our lives"

"I started teaching in 1980, I am accustomed to living teachers' life which is neither good nor bad, we don't rely on salary but God will reward. At least we get loans. I have managed to educate my children and I got a loan to buy a laptop for my child,"

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