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Teachers push ministry over nixed scholarship

More than 400 teachers who took part in an eight-month teaching course at the National Institute of Education (NIE) are demanding the government pay them scholarship funds that were initially promised only to be later axed over cost concerns.

In a petition sent yesterday to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MEYS), 461 primary school teachers who took part in the 2013-14 academic year program decried the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s (MEF) decision to pull the plug on the $20-a-month scholarship, just two months into the eight-month duration.

“It’s not appropriate,” said teacher and complainant Ngin Sophal. “The MEF sent us a letter on October 2014 saying that they decided not to pay the bonus, but we already finished our studies before that in August, so they must pay us.”

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron confirmed that the teachers were originally to have received an eight-month scholarship, but denied they had been kept in the dark for months regarding the MEF’s January decision.

“The management of NIE informed the teachers about the change verbally and immediately after the new sub-decree was adopted,” Naron said.

During the one-year training course, the primary school educators – who were to emerge equipped to teach secondary school students – received their base salary while they were not working, as well as a “functional allowance” and, until the January sub-decree, the scholarship.

“The teachers have already been told this, but they did not listen to the government’s side,” Naron said. “Right now, the government spends almost 50 per cent of the budget on salaries, so we need to tighten it in some areas because if not, it’s not sustainable and we have to think of everybody.”

Those program participants who were fresh out of post-secondary school and thus not being paid for lost wages, received the full eight-month scholarship, the minister added.

Naron said his hands were tied as the decision had already been overturned.

“I or the Ministry of Education can’t do anything about this, because I can’t override a sub-decree,” he said.

NIE administrative chief Leng Borey also said that the teachers are no longer entitled to the scholarships but added that the MEF is “responsible for the issue”.

The MEYS promised to give the complainants a formal reply within a week.

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