A) World Teachers’ Day 2011 (REPORT)
On the morning of Wednesday 5th at 7.15 am the organisers gathered in ‘Freedom Park’ in Phnom Penh to start organising for the celebration which was to include series of speeches and march to the Ministry of Education, Prime Ministers’ Office and National Assembly to deliver CITA’s World Teachers’ Day Petition.
From 7.30am onwards participants started to arrive from various provinces, hundreds of teachers, parents and students came from eighteen different provinces across Cambodia, many groups travelling for over seven hours to make it to the event. The participation of these provincial activities was made possible thanks to donations received from, INTO, KFTA, AFT, EI and ILO. As they arrived participants were given the World Teachers’ Day 2011 polo-shirt which carried the theme for the day ‘Give a Voice to Teachers’, the polo-shirt was possible thanks to the support of the ILO.
At 8.15am the participants began to organise in the middle of ‘Freedom Park’ spreading out the banners which carried the key messages of the day in Khmer and English. Throughout this time both uniformed and plain-cloth police observed from around the park.
At 8.45am. Mr. Rong Chhun, President of CITA, delivered the opening address.
Mr. Pong-Sul Ahn, Senior Specialist on Workers’ Activities ILO Bangkok, delivered the keynote speech. The key message of his speech was the ILO calling on the government and Ministry of Education to provide teachers’ with union rights including the right to collective bargaining and participation in education policy. He referred to the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) which Cambodia has signed and called on government to fully implement these recommendations. He also called on the government to implement the recommendation made by World Bank in 2008 to raise teachers’ basic salary to $150 per month.
Ms. Seng Theary, Founder of CIVICUS spoke about the important role of teachers in society and how the future of Cambodian society requires a quality education system in which teachers’ rights are respected.
Ms. Mu Sochu, Member of the National Assembly said “They [teachers] were firm with their demands. The teachers can’t survive with the salary that they receive. They feel like they have lost their value. It is demeaning to them and it reflects the lack of investment in the education sector.”
CITA Provincial Representatives Ros Tith Malay said “my $80 monthly salary is not enough to purchase goods in the market. Our salaries are not equal to the foreign dogs you [government officials] are raising in your houses. The low salaries force us to take money from the students. We are very ashamed and sympathetic…for the students. We don’t want to do this, but we need to fill our stomachs.”
Yan Chamroeun said “The goods in the market are high, but my salary is too low, I officially earns $72 per month in my job and this is not enough to support my family so I must have other income”
At 10.15am the participants then began their march towards the Ministry of Education to deliver their petition. When then reached the bottom of ‘Freedom Park’ the march was blocked by authorities who refused to allow the march continued. The insisted that only fifteen representatives of CITA could march to the Ministry of Education. After some delay a smaller group of CITA representative accompanied by press and National Assembly members continued towards the Ministry and at times there was up one hundred participants support this stage of the event.
At 11.10am the vanguard arrived at the Ministry building but was blocked from preceding to the main gate and again the authorities reduced the number of people who were allowed march to the main gate. Once at the main gate no-one from Ministry was prepared to come out and met the group or take the petition despite having been informed of the plan. After a waiting for more an hour and as more teachers arrived from ‘Freedom Park’ to support the group at the Ministry some progress was made. Eventually a senior Ministry Official took Mr. Rong Chhun inside and received the petition from him.
At 12.15pm the group now numbering approximately one hundred participants started towards the Prime Ministers’ office. Again the authority blocked the group and said that they could not continue as one group but only as two smaller groups. Upon arriving at Prime Ministers’ Office the group was meet by a senior official who spoke briefly with Mr. Rong Chhun.
At 12.45pm the group which was now numbered between two-three hundred participants marched towards the National Assembly to submit the final petition and hear support speeches from members of the Assembly.