The New Times (Kigali)

27 July 2014

Rwanda: Teachers At Gisimba Centre Strike Over Salary

Teachers at Gisimba Memorial Centre School, Nyarugenge District, refused to give out end of term two reports to the more that 150 learners, in protest of delayed salary arrears.

Not even hours of waiting could provide a breakthrough until lunch time, leaving several parents and students stranded.

"Primary school teachers have not been paid for the last two months, while the nursery teachers have up to eight months in arrears. We cannot continue like this because it's affecting our families," said Emmanuel Amani, one of the primary school teachers.

When The New Times visited the school at 11am on Friday, only nursery teachers had accepted to come and give out reports, although they also complained that the school had ignored their pleas. But school administrators and primary teachers did not turn up.

"We decided not to issue report cards to pupils in order to compel the school to pay us," said Amani, adding that several demand letters, copies of which The New Times saw had failed to bear fruits.

Marie Aimée Ingabire, the president of the school's parents' association, said they backed the teachers' demands, but added that pupils needed to be spared the suffering.

"We heard the teachers are striking over delayed salaries. We cannot pay the price because we paid school fees for our children," Ingabire said.

Gisimba Memorial Centre School, a property of Gisimba Memorial Association, opened doors in 1997 for pre-primary section, which now boasts 130 pupils.

In January, this year, the school launched its primary section, with around 50 pupils from primary 1-3.

The school uses facilities of Gisimba orphanage which is soon to be phased out, following a government policy to have all children in foster families.

Some teachers who talked to this paper said the Rwf120,000 and Rwf90,000 that parents pay as school fees in primary and nursery school, respectively, is used to cater for the orphans, instead of supporting school activities.

"We need distinction between the orphanage and school management," said a nursery teacher who claimed her landlord had given her the last warning because she had not been paying rent for the last eight months.

Her child in Senior Four was also obliged to drop out of school this year, because she could not pay her fees, she added.

Apart from the arrears, teachers said the school had failed to pay a number of employees' allowances agreed upon in a verbal contract.

These include contribution to social security fund and health insurance.

"We appeal to the labour inspector to help us handle this problem, otherwise we shall seek jobs elsewhere," Amani said.

However, Damas Gisimba, the association legal representative, criticised the teachers' strike.

"The teachers are indisciplined and lack professional ethics. They should have given the reports to pupils because the latter are not party to our crisis," Gisimba said, adding that unpaid months are not long enough to warrant loss of patience.

He explained that the school made many expenditures which led to failure to pay the teachers, but could not tell a tentative date when they may clear the arrears.

Kabibi Kacyira Jowe, a legal advisor at Cestrar trade union, also condemned the teachers' approach.

"Their demand is genuine and it can justify a strike, but again children should not be victims. Teachers should have waited until the opening of next term to carry out their strike," he said.

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