Hundreds of ethnic language school teachers in Mon and Karen states have been missing out on their salaries for the past several months, according to local sources, despite a government promise to pay them at the end of each month.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy today, U Myo Tin Aung, the head of the Mon State Education Department, blamed the Union government for not yet allocating money for ethnic language teacher salaries to the state.
“The Union government did not yet divide [the budget] for our expenses, so we could not give them their salaries,” U Myo Tin Aung said.
“We even asked them when they could give it to us. They told us they will give it, but we do not know when,” the minister added.
There are 1,792 ethnic language school teachers in Mon State — including 595 teaching Mon, 445 teaching Sgaw Karen, 161 teaching Pwo Karen, and 67 teaching Pa-O — instructing more than 43,000 students.
Last year the state government agreed to a proposal from the Mon Literature and Culture Committee, a community group, to pay the language teachers a monthly salary of 30,000 kyat, due at the end of each month.
However, hundreds of language teachers have not been paid for the past six months, said Nai Mon Rai Jai, the Mon Literature and Culture Committee’s general secretary.
“We want to know where their pay is. Our Mon teachers are civil servants; they should have the same rights as government school teachers,” he said.
Nai Mon Rai Jai said his committee has asked the state government for the teachers’ salaries several times, to no avail, and he suggested officials meet with the teachers directly to explain to them why their salaries haven’t arrived.
He said the teachers had also gone unpaid for a nine-month stretch last year and that the repeated delays were a reflection of the Union government’s overall lack of respect for ethnic groups and their languages, belying its pledges to give them equal rights.
Despite multiple requests by the Mon Literate and Culture Committee, the government does not allow ethnic language instruction during regular school hours.
“I am not saying our ethnic teachers need money, but it is not normal to treat them like this,” Nai Mon Rai Jai said.
The pay delays have also come up in the state Parliament.
“I have talked about it a lot in Parliament. I have talked about it so much my mouth has gotten bigger. But the Parliament just says the Union government has not provided it [the salaries] yet,” said U Tun Min Aung, the chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of Mon State Parliament.
Similar delays are occurring in Karen State, according to its ethnic affairs minister, U Min Tin Win. He said the Union government might pay the salaries in January.
There are a total 21,000 ethnic language school teachers across the country teaching 51 languages.
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that U Myo Tit Aung was the education minister of Mon State. In fact, he is the head of the Mon State Education Department and his name is spelled U Myo Tin Aung. In the same story, U Tun Min Aung was wrongly stated as the ethnic affairs minister. Actually, he is the chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of Mon State Parliament.