Ratanakkiri's teachers are loath to come to class when they can earn more money elsewhere, adding to a long-standing absenteeism trend.
The teachers blame the parents for not letting students attend class, and the parents blame the teachers for not showing up to school, said Chan Kham Khoeu, director of the Rattanakkiri provincial education department.
“We visited classes over the last two months and saw that one class had only between three and five students. That makes teachers not want to go to school,” she said.
In Taveng district, parents claimed that some teachers failed to consistently teach class over the past four months while they sought more lucrative employment instead, an accusation Kham Khoeu denied.
But the NGO Education Partnership (NEP) reported last year that up to 67 per cent of primary school teachers hold a second job, a factor frequently cited as causing teachers to cut class.
NEP researcher Ang Sopha suggested that “non-monetary incentives” could motivate teachers to keep regular class schedules, including “equal opportunities for teachers to receive position promotions and training”.
Ke Dararoth, manager of child rights and governance at Save the Children, said that the “really low salary forces teachers to take on a second or third job to compensate”.
“Becoming a teacher is also generally not someone’s first choice of employment, which translates into a lack of motivation and commitment.”
A 2008 Ministry of Education study found that 153 primary school hours were lost over a single year, mainly due to absent teachers.
“That’s one reason the government raised the salary of teachers, to reduce absenteeism,” Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron said.
“I think the problem continues to affect mostly remote schools where there is less control and oversight by the education departments.”
But Naron acknowledged that the salary boost is “not enough” to resolve absenteeism on its own.
“We want to further increase bonus incentives and monitoring by district education departments,” he said.
Teachers in Taveng district could not be reached.