Ethnic language teachers who work in public schools in Sumprabum commune, Putao district, Kachin state, say they have not received a salary since the start of the school year in June.
“To date, we have not received a salary since the start of the school year. I teach at school every day. I have been teaching at the school since it started in June, ”Jinghpaw High School language teacher Zau Nan told NMG.
The town of Sumprabum, where Zau Nan works, has a high school and nearly 10 primary and secondary schools. There are reportedly 10 ethnic language teachers working in the city’s public schools, teaching Jinghpaw and Lisu languages since 2016.
“Even though the government made a promise, we have not yet received our salaries. Even though we haven’t received our salaries, we still teach children at school, ”Zau Nan explained. “If I don’t teach, I’m so worried that our Kachin children won’t 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 after school job because I need to support my children and my family.
According to ethnic literature and culture organizations, while the government has given them permission to teach their languages in public schools, no appropriate government support and no compensation has been provided.
One of the many challenges teachers face is ethnic diversity, Zau Dot Tsarm Naw, president of Kachin Nationals Culture and Tradition – Youth, told NMG, noting that there are six Kachin sub-tribes alone.
“It seems that the teaching of ethnic languages is not really supported,” said Zau Dot Tsarm Naw. “If we teach Kachin languages to our children, a lot of people think it’s related to [Kachin] armed groups, ”he added, describing the misconceptions surrounding the instruction.
Teachers are only allowed to teach during the last hour of the school day, as the subject of ethnic language is optional. Ethnic literature and culture organizations point out that while language teaching has been permitted since 2013, curricula, learning materials and teachers are scarce.
One solution, they say, is to ensure that respective authorities, principals and other teachers participate in the teaching and learning of ethnic languages in public schools.
In Kachin State, the languages of six Kachin sub-tribes and the Shan ethnic language are approved for teaching.