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A teachers works through academic exercises on a whiteboard with students at Wat Koh High School in Phnom Penh late last month
A teachers works through academic exercises on a whiteboard with students at Wat Koh High School in Phnom Penh late last month. Pha Lina

Benefits for teachers? Not yet

The government has a response to teachers’ request for health insurance: We’ll provide it if you buy it.

At a meeting in Takeo province this past weekend, the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) said an upcoming teacher strike would include health insurance on the list of demands in addition to the repeated call for a salary increase to $250 a month.

The Minister of Education yesterday suggested instead of striking for insurance, teachers could join a group plan through the ministry and pay $10 a month for coverage.

“We want teachers to have health insurance . . . and the ministry could implement it once a critical mass of teachers have signed up,” Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron said.

“We need to know what kind of coverage would best serve teachers and . . . assess whether enough teachers want to pay. We don’t want to force anyone to buy insurance.”

But teachers maintained yesterday that they can’t afford to part with 10 per cent of their salary every year for coverage they may not need.

“Ten dollars is too much money for teachers while their salary is so little. I think the ministry should have a card for every teacher to show up for free health care in every hospital,” Rong Chhun, president of CITA, said.

Cambodia lacks a nationwide health care scheme, though the government has previously said it will provide compulsory social health insurance to civil servants starting in 2015.

“We have a draft policy we’re waiting on the government to approve,” said Dr Sok Kanha, deputy director of the department of planning and health information at the Ministry of Health. “Cambodia and Myanmar are the last countries in the ASEAN to lack a plan to implement [universal health coverage].”

But realistically, scaling up insurance to cover the country’s more than 11,000 teachers would entail a huge boost in funding and be dependent on effective tax collection, she added.

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