Unfulfilled promise to teachers.
Sayed Anwar Najibi, a teacher in Karukh district, Herat, is angry with the government. "We have frequently been promised land but nothing ever happens."
A township for teachers was planned years back but in the desert in Karukh district.
Shakeela who teaches in a girls' school (number 13 in Jamal Maena, Kabul City) says some teachers had won plots through a lottery but have not yet been handed over the land or told the location even though they have paid the money.
Abdul Razaq Azizi, a teacher at Mahmood Hotaki school in the city's 3rd District, is very skeptical of the government's plan to give teachers plots of land to build houses. "A plot of land will not solve the problem of shelter," he says. Teachers cannot dream of building a house on the "low" salary they get from the government.
He requests the government to solve the problem of housing by giving teachers the option of payments on apartments through long-term installments.
Kabir Haqmal, head of the publication department in the Ministry of Education, says the ministry has done all it can to solve teachers' problems. Plots have been distributed to 85,000 teachers and more is ready for distribution but it is a slow process, he insists. "We are faced with problems in the provinces where land does not exist. We need time, and we are in touch with all offices to give us land," Haqmal says.
He supports the proposal that the ministry should hand over apartments that are ready to teachers in need in coordination with the Ministry of Urban Development under a long-term payment scheme.
Afghanistan has townships that were meant for teachers but were taken over by "powerful individuals".
Haqmal says usurped plots are being taken back. "We had some 10,000 usurped plots in the past but after the president assigned a high-level commission most of the usurped lands were restored to the Ministry of Education," he says.
However, Humaira Ayubi, member of the parliamentary commission on education and higher studies says, "The lands that the government has distributed to the teachers are in remote desert areas, like the townships that have been built for refugees. There is not even water."
Teachers are government-employees with the lowest income of between 6,000 and 12,000 Afs (87 and 173 USD) per month. As a result many do two jobs, which could be a job either in a private school or elsewhere.
Shakeela from the school in Kabul's Jamal Maena says, "Salaries are so low that most teachers are forced to live in rented houses since they cannot afford their own house." She's a schoolteacher with 29 years of experience, but her monthly salary is only 10,000 Afs (144 USD).
Kalsoom teaches in the girls' school in Bamyan City. She earns 8,000 Afs (115 USD), which is simply not enough to pay for all her needs, she adds. Abdullah Khan, a schoolteacher in Paktika province, says his salary is low and not even paid on time.
Officials in the Ministry of Education say salaries are paid as per the law of civil services.
Haqmal says, "All government employees, from minister to the lowest grade, are paid according to the law. Teachers are privileged -- they get a three-month winter holiday and 20 days in the summer; teach only half day, which leaves them free to teach in a second place should they want to, or have some other occupation. As a result, a teacher's salary is more than other government employees."
Teachers are demanding that the government reduce their hours of work. They say that at present they have to teach 30 hours a week, whereas the norm is 18 to 24 hours. "Lengthy teaching hours are hard on elderly teachers," says Shaki, a teacher in the 3rd District, Kabul.
Haqmal, however, thinks the Ministry of Education should increase teaching hours since there is a shortage of teachers. At present there are 200,000 teachers across the country. The government would have to recruit 50,000 more to meet the current need but it does not have the money to pay. "We should use the teachers for 28 hours (those who have 22 hour weeks)," says Haqmal. "I do not think this is tyrannical since we pay overtime wages for every extra hour of work. Until we have enough teachers for the students that we have, we will face a problem."
For many teachers, the growing uncertainty because of worsening insecurity is a problem. Sayed Anwar Najibi, a teacher in Karukh district of Herat province says, "When there is no security we are at risk at work."
According to Abdullah Khan, the long running conflict in Afghanistan is one of the main problems threatening education. "There is no problem in the centre (Kabul City and provincial capitals) but schools could be closed in districts where there is little assurance of safety for schoolteachers who pose no threat but are regarded as government employees, and hence targeted by anti-government forces."
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