Ethnic Language Teachers in Putao Say They Have Not Been Paid In Months


Monday, October 21, 2019

Ethnic language teachers who are working in government schools in Sumprabum Township in Kachin State’s Putao District say they have not received a salary since the start of the school year in June.

“As of today, we haven’t received a salary since school started. I teach at school everyday. I have taught at school since it began in June,” high school Jinghpaw language instructor Zau Nan told NMG.

Sumprabum town, where Zau Nan works, has one high school and nearly 10 primary and middle schools. There are reportedly 10 ethnic language teachers working in the town’s government schools, teaching Jinghpaw and Lisu languages since 2016.

“Even though the government has given a promise, we have yet to receive our salaries. Even though we haven’t received our salaries, we are still teaching children in school,” Zau Nan explained. “If I don’t teach, I am so worried that our Kachin children will not be able to read our language. But if I wasn’t a teacher, I could afford to support my family. Now I cannot afford to support my family. Now I am working at another job after school hours because I need to support my children and my family.”

According to ethnic literature and culture organizations, while the government has given permission for them to teach their languages in public schools, proper government assistance and compensation has not been provided.

One of the many difficulties that teachers face is ethnic diversity, Zau Dot Tsarm Naw, the chairperson of the Kachin Nationals Culture and Tradition – Youth, told NMG, pointing out that there are six Kachin sub-tribes alone.

“It seems that ethnic language teaching is not really supported,” Zau Dot Tsarm Naw said. “If we teach Kachin languages to our children, many people think that it is connected with [Kachin] armed groups,” he added, describing the misconceptions around the instruction.

Teachers are allowed to provide instruction only in the final hour of the school day, as the subject of ethnic language is an elective. Ethnic literature and culture organizations point out that while the teaching of the languages has been permitted since 2013, curricula, learning materials and teachers are in short supply.

One solution, they say, is to ensure that the respective authorities, principals, and other teachers participate in the ethnic language teaching and learning in government schools.

In Kachin State, languages of six Kachin sub-tribes and Shan ethnic language are approved for instruction.