Qizhou in Qichun County of Hubei Province is an important economic and cultural town, famous for its high-quality education in particular. There is a street famed as “Doctors’ Street” for having brought up more than 10 scholars who received doctorate degree. There are two middle schools and 32 elementary schools in the town.
Eight teachers and 11 part-time teachers left the middle schools this spring, in addition to the 77 off-payroll teachers who left their elementary schools. The reason of their leave was that they were not well-paid.
In the past, the tuition fee was 180 yuan (US$21.7) per semester for elementary school and 450 yuan (US$54.4) for junior high school. Now the fees have been decreased to 80 yuan (US$9.6) per semester for elementary school and 150 yuan (US$18.1) for junior high school. As a result of the deduction, the schools can afford only 65 percent of the salaries of their teachers on the payroll, and those off-payroll teachers get only 250 yuan (US$30.2) each as their monthly salary. Now, because of the lack of teachers, classes cannot be opened normally and a total of 432 junior high and elementary students have quitted school.
Tangyuan Elementary School used to have 10 teachers for its seven classes of different grades. Up to date, only five of its teachers remain on their teaching posts. To manage this difficult situation, classes of different grades have to merge and students of different age groups have to crowd into one classroom. When the teacher teaches lessons to the students of one grade, the other students have to turn round to study by themselves.
In Wangyao Village, the farmers told their stories. Nine of the village school’s 14 teachers have left, leaving the remaining five to teach eight classes. Villager Zhang Jinhua said now her six-grade son has to study by himself because of the lack of teachers.
According Zhan Shihe, a villager in Huaishu Village, the farmers’ burden for education has been reduced from 170 yuan (US$20.5) to 32 yuan (US$3.9). Before the reform, farmers worried about paying the high tuition fee; now they worry even more because there are no more teachers to teach their kids. A few days ago, the villagers pooled up 5,000 yuan (US$604) for inviting their teachers back, but neither the school nor the village dare to take the money for the fear of being punished as rampant charging, as regulated in governmental documents.
According to the deputy director of county education bureau, among the county’s 11,697 teachers and faculty, 1,628 are off-payroll teachers, and 2,478 are part-time. Since 2001, the county government has been taking care of the teachers’ salaries, by paying basic salaries for the teachers on the payroll and 3,000 yuan for each off-payroll teacher. There is no budget for the payment of part-time teachers. After the reduction of tuition charge, the government revenue for education decreased by more than 100 million yuan (US$12 million). Now it is difficult to ensure the income of off-payroll and part-time teachers. That is why many teaches have left their schools to find jobs outside their hometowns.
The director of the county finance bureau explained that the total revenue of the county government is 140 million yuan (US$16.9 million) and of which, more than 60 million yuan (US$7.2 million) is spent for education. After the reform of taxation, the county receives 43 million yuan (US$5 million) from the provincial government every year and 26 million (US$3.1 million) of it is allocated to education. Still, there is no way to ensure all teachers’ income.
According to Han Xixiang, deputy director of the finance section of Hubei Provincial Education Department, the problem of teacher drain is common in poor rural areas. Though the state has taken some measures, such as reforming the management system of compulsory education in rural areas and putting in more money for education, it is still difficult for some poor areas to maintain the basic educational expense. Now, the farmers’ burden has changed its nature, from being over-charged to lacking teachers for the compulsory education of their kids.
(China.org.cn by Wu Nanlan April 18, 2003)