The National – Tuesday, February 1, 2011
By STAFF REPORTERS
TEACHERS in the Southern Highlands yesterday reportedly stormed the education office located inside Agiru centre in Mendi and closed it.
A teacher at the scene told The National that teachers contributed money to buy a new padlock and chain and locked the office and chained it around 11am.
The teachers, who are supposed to return to their respective schools next week to prepare for classes, were angry at failure by provincial and national education authorities to respond to their demands for hardship allowances, a general pay increase and housing allowance.
The teachers gave a 14-day notice to provincial government, Education Department and national government to respond or they would walk off their jobs.
Southern Highlands adviser Joel Raitano, who was in Lae yesterday to assess teacher incentives, refuted earlier report that about 4,000 teachers had threatened to resign en masse over poor working conditions.
He said an inquiry team was investigating teacher incentives and the cause for education standards and systems.
A large number of teachers, however, decided yesterday that they would not fill their resumption of duty forms as directed by acting education secretary Dr Joseph Pagelio until their demands were met.
John Kuimp, one of the teachers on the working committee assisting the PNG Teacher’s Association (PNGTA) branch in the province, told The National from Mendi that the teachers had decided not to take up their posting until all their demands were meet by the provincial and national governments.
Kuimb said the teachers decided to stay out of class until their demands were met, adding that all schools in the province would remain close for indefinite period.
PNGTA national president Tommy Hecko has thrown his support behind the teachers and called on Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru to listen to the teachers’ pleas.
Hecko yesterday said teachers were feeling the effects of the LNG development in the province and that the K300-K400 base salary for teachers there was insufficient to sustain their daily needs.
“I appeal to Agiru to sit down and negotiate with the teachers. Do not ignore their calls, at least hear them out,” he said.
Kuimb said the teachers wanted an additional K400 in mining allowances to be paid by the provincial government on top of their normal salaries.
They have been demanding a mining allowance since Kutubu oil was first exported some 17 years ago. Successive provincial governments promised to pay them but that has never materialised.
He said with the big multi-billion kina gas project coming on stream, the teachers wanted their long overdue allowances to be paid, adding that their K6 housing allowances was “a joke” and should be increased to K100.
Hecko said primary and elementary schools would be hit the hardest with less than a week of school
In Lae, Raitano said no specific teacher incentives for the liquefied natural gas project impacted areas were set in place.
The idea of incentives for impacted areas was discussed but is yet to be determined between all the levels of government (council, district, provincial and national government) and teachers.
Raitano did say however, that the incentives would begin this year and that teachers in most disadvantaged schools would benefit.
What these benefits are and when they might be implemented, he would not reveal.