Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Teachers' Day

September 10th is Teachers' Day in China.

Students and former pupils send cards and gifts to their teachers and professors as a sign of respect and admiration for giving them the knowledge they need to succeed.

And this year the government says it's concerned that not all students across the country are getting the education they need, especially in the rural areas.

Premier Wen Jiabao encouraged students from underdeveloped areas to serve their hometowns so that they could get a good education.

But what incentive do teachers have to work in the countryside when the average teacher's salary in those areas is 800RMB (US$106) a month? And even then, the money isn't necessarily paid on time as it's doled out by local governments who don't always have the cash on hand.

According to the national English-language newspaper, 60 per cent of the total 11 million teachers work in rural areas in near poverty conditions.

There was also a profile of a teacher in Wuning County, East China's Jiangxi Province. The 53-year-old man picks up his students in his wooden boat and rows two kilometres to reach his one-room school.

And not only does he teach 14 elementary school students, but cooks lunch for them as well.

But wait -- there was an even more compelling story from Baijing County, in South China's Hunan Province. This teacher also teaches in a one-room school but lost his arm from trying to help build a new school. He had a mishap with an axe and his right arm had to be amputated.

Not only can he write with his left hand, but also carries his students through the treacherous mountain paths during winter storms, and catches poisonous snakes for money to help poor students.

While the central government clearly wants to show the unwavering dedication of these teachers, it also shows how severely underfunded these teachers and schools are.

Why can't the government raise the pay of these incredible mentors and pay them directly instead of through local bureaucracies? What the country needs the most right now are more people with knowledge.

And teachers with a well-deserved salary are a start.

1 comment:

ks said...

the young generation and students are the future of the nation. it is short sighted of the government not to invest in them. it is sad and unfortunate that there is not enough budget in education while lots of money for building the infrastructure for the olympics aso in the military. in the old days there is a saying : 'want to be poor, be a teacher'. decades later this is still true.
in the same vein, i understand the life expectancy of the chinese interlectuals is only in their 50's. they usually succumb to degenerative diseases of the elderly such as heart failure, coronary disease, lung cancer and stroke at their most productive period of life.