Tibetan Teachers Protest Low Pay in Chinas Qinghai

2007-11-22
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Children at the Ghondong Bhakhang School in the heart of traditional Lhasa learn to write Tibetan script. Photo: AFP/Melanie Bell

WASHINGTON--Tibetans working as locally hired village teachers in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai have staged a two-week protest outside local government offices in protest at their meager pay, sources in the region told RFA's Tibetan service.

"For the past two weeks, more than 200 Tibetan college graduates staged a protest in front of the county office buildings in Rebkong," a resident of Rebkong (in Chinese, Tongren) said.

"These Tibetans are employed as Tibetan temporary teachers in different schools in the county and are paid from 200 to 450 yuan (U.S.$34-54) per month," the resident of Rebkong township, in the predominantly Tibetan Malho Prefecture, said.

"This meager pay is not sufficient even to meet basic living costs.”

The teachers, who began their protest at the beginning of November, said they were demanding recognition as full-time teachers, a status that carries a pay-packet of 2,000 yuan (U.S.$270) a month.

We teach Tibetan, arithmetic, and Chinese and take heavy responsibility but I am paid only 450 yuan a month...A regular teacher is paid 2,000 yuan a month.

“We teach Tibetan, arithmetic, and Chinese and take heavy responsibility but I am paid only 450 yuan a month," one of the protesting teachers said.

Basic expenses not covered

"Since the pay is not enough to meet living expenses, we have to ask our parents to supplement our income. Therefore we are demanding the position of regular full-time teacher."

"A regular teacher is paid 2,000 yuan per month."

Officials in Rebkong have offered a pay-rise of just 80 yuan (U.S.$11) a month.

"County officials have promised a raise of 80 yuan to resolve the demands of protesting teachers," an official at the Rebkong county government said.

"The heads of schools were instructed by the senior county officials to maintain control over their subordinate teachers and call them back to their respective schools," the official added.

But the Tibetan teachers said the offer would make little difference.

"Therefore, we are continuing to demand that our posts be regularized, and we are continuing our protests," the Rebkong-based teacher said.

Serious problem for Tibetan graduates

Central government guidelines have highlighted the issue of teachers who are hired and licensed by the bureaux for ethnic minorities at local level, as opposed to those who earn full teaching salaries under the Ministry of Education. Official media have reported calls for local governments to bring ethnic minority teachers' pay in line with that of regular teachers, but other reports have also said that this is taking decades to achieve.

A Tibetan expert at Qinghai University said the dispute highlighted a serious problem for young Tibetan graduates throughout China, and in Tibetan regions in particular.

"This could undermine the livelihood of many Tibetan young people, and threatens their sense of purpose in life, and drives them to desperation," the expert said. In August 2006, hundreds of Tibetan graduates joined a rare public protest in the Tibetan regional capital, Lhasa, over alleged discrimination by Chinese authorities in hiring for civil service jobs.

A civil service examination on Sept. 30 conducted by the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) government in Lhasa appears to have sparked the protest, sources said on condition of anonymity.

Some 1,000 Tibetan and Chinese candidates sat for the exam, aimed at filling 100 open positions, one source said. Ultimately, jobs were offered to 98 Chinese and two Tibetan applicants.

The protest was followed by an article in an official Chinese newspaper calling on government departments to observe the region's employment policies.

Original reporting in Amdo dialect by RFA's Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Original reporting in Tibetan

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