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No more missing pay cheques for teachers in Cambodia

Souy Kran is a primary school teacher in Cambodia Thomas Roos

Souy Kran is a primary school teacher in Kep, Cambodia

Due to low and unreliable salaries, teachers in Cambodia have been demoralised. This has a knock-on effect on quality of education and is a barrier to improvement. But after work by VSO volunteers a new system of payment has been introduced that ensures reliable access to teachers’ hard-earned wages.  

Late payments leave teachers unmotivated

VSO volunteers Gordon Conochie and Kieran Way worked with NGO Education Partnership to understand some of the major challenges faced by teachers in Cambodia. The organisation advocates on behalf of education NGOs with the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports. 

Drawing on their backgrounds in advocacy and research, they soon discovered that late payment of salaries and unofficial deductions were two of the major causes of low motivation amongst teachers, which were partly caused by all teacher salaries being transferred in cash around the country.
The payment system meant teachers had to pay to travel to the Department of Education every month to receive their salary in cash. Often they arrive to find no one there, so teachers typically have to return several times before getting paid. Many teachers only manage to receive payment once every two months, and often find deductions made to their salaries that they don’t understand. 

A new payment system 

Gordon, Kieran and partner organisation NEP met with the leaders of the bank with the largest network in Cambodia to discuss the introduction of bank accounts for the transfer of teacher salaries, and how this could work in practice.  

NGO Education Partnership (NEP) along with the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association (CITA) shared this and other supporting information with the Minister for Education in Cambodia. 

The reform of the payment system of teacher’s salaries has been a priority for VSO Cambodia and education advocacy partners NEP and CITA since 2011, and success has followed after years of dedicated researching, campaigning and lobbying.

Children of Pong Teuk Primary school Thomas Roos

Children of  Pong Teuk Primary school 

Changes at school level

VSO volunteer education advisor Alice Chandler visited schools in Mondulkiri province, eastern Cambodia after news of advocacy success, she reports:

“The teachers were happy that they were being paid directly from the government and that they would no longer be victims of the mysterious deductions they incurred from their salary when they were dependent on supervisors to obtain their pay.”

No longer victims of the mysterious deductions they incurred from their salary

Making a difference to the lives of teachers

This achievement stands as credit to all VSO Cambodia volunteers and education advocacy partners. It demonstrates the importance of closing the circle between national policy and changes in practice, which make a real difference to the lives of teachers and students.

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