Please Pay Teachers a Living Wage
Your driver is earning more than your child’s teacher. That’s right. The driver of your vehicle is given more financial value than the one to whom you entrust your child’s future. A teacher is someone who has immense respect in South Asian societies which has somehow failed to translate into their wages.
In Sri Lanka, teachers today earn between Rs. 35,000 (USD 190) and Rs. 45,000 (USD 245) a month. Even teachers in private / international schools earn between Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 120,000 if they are lucky. A driver earns Rs. 45,000 a month or more and a manager in a corporate sector job would earn Rs. 150,000 a month. That is often a marketing or sales role with incentives, bonuses etc. and opportunities for increments. A senior manager can earn upto Rs. 500,000 and above per month. Most often these are FMCG companies which promote consumer items which add not much value to a person’s life.
A teacher on the other hand is given the task of honing your child’s learning skills, encouraging them to interact with others, teaching them to evaluate and understand language, literature, society and social constructs. Teachers are almost parents – they are with your child for most of the day and they have a huge impact and influence on your child’s development. Your child’s key learning goals are achieved with a teacher. Yet you see no value in paying him / her a living wage?
Most teachers today turn to tuition to supplement their income. This is also why they push the children to attend their classes – because with that income they can live. Many people today don’t want to become teachers because it honestly is not worth the time, effort and energy involved to be paid an amount that can barely keep you alive. I know this because I myself taught for over 10 years and refused a full time teaching job because it would not supplement any kind of living unless I inherited some fortune. Plus the expectation is huge for such a small remuneration. Most teachers teach in big schools today to get their children into the school. Beyond that there is little incentive to make them work. And while it may sound noble to romanticize a teacher’s sacrifice for their students, it’s a bit ridiculous to expect them to live with a wage that can barely supplement their needs. There may be the privileged few who can afford to teach without remuneration but those are few and far between.
Somewhere down the line we have forgotten the value we place on teachers. We have forgotten the key role they play in honing the next generation. And so we have now become slaves to tuition and other machinations built to supplement an income that is truly pathetic when compared to the private sector.
So please, question the institutions that your children school in. Ask them why they cannot pay a bit more to ensure that good teachers remain. A good teacher makes all the difference for your child and between going for tuition or not. Would you rather pay a healthy salary to a school teacher than be compelled to pay exorbitant fees while carting your child around for numerous tuition classes? It’s time to start asking these difficult questions and rectifying a great error perpetuating in our society today – paying teachers a tuppence for the service they render.