Cambodia's lowest paid high-school and primary-school teachers will receive a $25 increase to their base monthly salary by the end of May, the government revealed on Monday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the raise at the opening of the National Literacy Campaign on Monday and reiterated his pledge to establish a base teacher salary of $250 by 2018.
“The salary system has not been prepared yet but it will happen soon and teachers' salaries will increased to at least 650,000 riel ($162) and our goal is at least 1 million riel by 2018 for the lowest grade teachers,” Hun Sen said.
Education Minister Hang Chhuon Naron confirmed after the premier's speech that the initial raise from $137 to $162 would come into effect by the end of May, adding that it had been agreed upon in September but only just publicly announced now.
“This is a policy that the prime minister announced to balance between investing in hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure including human resources. The increase in salary would be the priority and at the same time we have to balance with the infrastructure development,” he said.
“In the past the government paid more attention to investing in hard infrastructure…so right now the prime minister announced the policy of balancing that investment. So priority will be given to salary increase.”
The ruling Cambodian People's Party have made improving the education system a key pillar of their reform agenda - aimed at wooing back the voters that deserted them in droves at the 2013 election.
But the party has repeatedly come under fire for attempting to outlaw corrupt practices among teachers without addressing the underlying problem – their unsustainably low wages.
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann said teachers needed the raise to $250 immediately because of the soaring cost of living expenses.
“The more the better. We support the policy because the cost of living is going up every day and the cvil servants can not afford the cost of life. But $162 is not enough,” he said.
Rong Chhun, president of the The Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association, said he was very happy to hear the Prime Minister's pledge but also stressed the amount would not cover basic living costs.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen should take measure of the price of goods increasing, not only the salary increasing. It’s a related problem. I think government has had the capacity to increase teachers' salaries but I don’t know why they just made it [the increase] now,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE