While the nation celebrated Teachers’ Day yesterday, more than 100,000 school faculty and staff across the country answered the call of the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions (NFTU) to protest against the failure of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to keep the promises it made to the nation’s teachers, the federation said.
From Taipei and Yilan to Nantou and Kaohsiung, teachers wore black T-shirts, gave out stickers, chanted slogans, took group pictures or staged performances during recesses as they called on the government to follow through with the educational reforms it had promised, such as incorporating private-school teachers into the national pension system, increasing the budget for education, improving teacher-to-class ratios and reducing class sizes.
In Taipei’s DunXu High School of Industry and Commerce, about 30 faculty members including the school principal posed for group photographs to show their solidarity. For teachers in private schools, one of the most pressing issues is attaining national pension rights, protesters said.
“An act granting private-school teachers the same levels of pension rights as their public-school counterparts was passed in 2009 and was supposed to go into effect in 2010, but nothing has happened yet. And even public-school teachers facing retirement have to deal with the fact that they have very little pension payments,” said teacher Chien Tien–chih (簡添枝), who is also a member of the National Teachers’ Association, referring to the Statutes for Retired Surviving Descendant Pension Removal and Severance Pay for Teachers and Staff Members of Incorporated Schools and Affiliated Private Schools.
Meanwhile, all the teachers and staff from Renai Junior High School in Nantou County, which has only six classrooms, came out in force to support the demonstration. Teacher Chen Mei-chen (陳美珍) said that a limited budget is the main problem faced by rural schools, which are usually small.
“Schools in remote, poor areas like ours get fewer resources and money from the government. We have to try to get enough money ourselves and solicit donations from parents,” Chen said. “Sometimes when a light is broken, we have to wait for an entire semester until we have the money to fix it.”
Hsu Shu-chuan (許淑娟) from the Affiliated Senior High School of National Chi-Nan University said that the situation of unequal distribution of resources will worsen if the Legislative Yuan passes an amendment to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法).
“Each year, the Executive Yuan allocates a budget of about NT$50 billion [US$1.7 billion] to schools in relatively poor cities and counties. It is an independent fund issued by the central government,” Hsu said.
“The proposed amendment allows the fund to be used on not only education, but social welfare services and police and fire departments. Moreover, it will be up to county commissioners to decide how it is used. And we all know local officials tend to make decisions under electoral and political pressures,” Hsu added.
In Kaohsiung, Tung Shu-yu (董書攸) from Sheng-Li Primary School said that the number of temporary teachers has increased sharply over the past three years because the city has not recruited full-time teachers for years.
According to Tung, temporary teachers who teach more than 20 classes a week earn just NT$20,000 a month.