News Analysis: University teachers threaten action if ‘administrative abuse’ continues

6 mins read
Professor Birhanu Nega, Education Minister; Picture: Ministry of Education

By Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21

Addis Abeba: University teachers have stressed that unless their demands for salary raises, promotions, housing, life insurance, credit mechanisms, and transfer rights for teaching staff are met, the Ministry of Education shall be held responsible for any subsequent measures that will be taken, which would affect, in turn, the teaching-learning process. 

The University Teachers’ Association, which numbers 40,000 teachers under its wings, sent a letter on 03 August 2022 to the Ministry of Education and other high-level governmental institutions. The letter detailed that the teachers’ demands were communicated to relevant ministries and governmental institutions repeatedly and then cautioned that if their questions were not answered by the 11th of September, the teachers would enact their own measures. 

The union’s letter describes that regarding earlier demands for promotion amendments (JEG) preliminary recommendation notes were discussed in the presence of concerned stakeholders on 18 October 2021 and then sent to the Ministry of Education, and while changes were being expected, however, a decision with no connection to impacts on the living conditions or work motivation was passed and this was found as inappropriate. 

The executive committee of the teachers’ union detailed what it called ‘administrative abuses’; it was said that firstly, the promotion amendments (JEG) were deemed unworthy even through the lens of the entire teaching sector, more so individuals with professor rankship have seen no improvements and during the month of July 2019, the announced salary scale by the Civil Service Commission, Federal Civil Servants Job Allocation and Assessment, was not made applicable to university teaching staff. 

Additionally, there were indications of interest for the housing allowance to be revised immediately taking into consideration the housing costs, stating that the promotion revision was conducted in a manner inconsiderate of teachers’ experience, and moving forward with this revision does not allow for an equitable salary parity between teachers thus it called on the revision to be cognizant of experience and rank, it was expressed.

It was explained that the assistant professorship academic title now requires the minimum bar of a post-grad degree on which the teachers say they have comments, previously those who possessed an MA/MSc/M.Phil was able to progress into assistant professorship as long as they met the requirements. Thus the decision is unscientific, illogical, and unreasonable, according to the teachers. They explained that there are those who are internationally published and also others who are waiting to meet the needed service time, hence this decision is not right. 

Furthermore, it was indicated that the standards might have seemed to need improvements, however, canceling the previous path of academic entitlement completely would go against the rights of teachers, plus there are fields of study that don’t have Ph.D. programs within the country, all this would impact on the future teaching careers of many. 

The union stated that the minimum required education level for academic technical assistants is a bachelor’s degree, and associated with this, the association said that they want the future of technical assistants who were at the diploma level to be detailed, and if bachelor levels were demanded, they requested universities pay for their salaries and benefits and ask for them to acquire their undergraduate degree. 

Finally, it was said that most university teachers have a master’s degree, however, the revised Chief Technical Assistant II level of education requires a third degree (Ph.D.), which does not take into account the realities on the ground. 

The association has issued a strict warning that if the Ministry of Education does not accept the demands and give an appropriate response, we will take the necessary legal measures, including stopping work, to enforce the rights. The association added that the Civil Service Commission and the Ministry of Education, who failed to understand the teacher’s pain and burden, will take responsibility for any procedural disruption, disruption of the education program, student misbehavior, and additional pressure on their families.

Asosa University Teachers’ Union Warning 

Similarly, in a letter sent to the PMO, Ministry of Education, and other relevant stakeholders, on the  18th of July 2022, it was expressed that the reformed JEG scheme is one that eroded the cohesion between stakeholders, lack of understanding of teachers’ concerns, caused moral damage to teachers and thus stated their rejection to it and accordingly, urged for rectification measures. 

The president of the association sent the confirmation letter to Addis Standard; The letter explains that even the current salary of university teachers is not enough to sustain the life they had 5 years ago and that the teacher has been patiently bearing the burden of living which is getting worse day by day considering the terrible times the country has gone through and the transition period the government was in. In addition, in the 2014 fiscal year that ended, a consensus was reached based on a series of discussions between the stakeholders and the JEG ​​study that a relevant salary revision would be made, but the decision made by the Ministry of Education without honoring its promise has greatly angered the teachers of higher education institutions, the letter states.

The association has urged that the governmental bodies answer their questions without stalling. If this doesn’t happen, they cautioned that any measures causing pressure on students and parents, crises in processes, and disruptions in education, the union would take no responsibility for that. 

University Teachers Speak 

An anonymous source, who has a BSc in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Construction Technology and Management, teaching at Gonder university, said that the ‘salary plus allowances amount to 8576.90’, this minuscule salary, the source said on the study for university teachers and academic staff was expected, stated that nothing happened. 

No matter how many years of service a teacher wants, there is no such thing as a salary adjustment based on work experience. For example, when I was hired, my salary was 11,305.00. This means, whether it is 2 years or 10 years, the salary of a teacher who has served as many years as he wants is equal to the salary of a newly hired teacher, the source added.

Another confidential source stated that According to another university teacher, the house allowance of 800 birr came about to 520.00 birr after taxation during the imperial times, and it has not been adjusted since then. The teacher says it is important to note how much the rent increases every year. Addis Ababa, Gondar, Jimma, Hawassa, Mekele, or any of the federal, state, and zone government universities have the same house allowance. He said that it is not right that Addis Ababa, Gondar, Debark, and Enjbara have a house price of 800.00 Birr, which does not take into account the cost of living in the cities.

The university condominium housing is only availed to presidents, vice presidents, and college directors said the source. Thus a letter was written on 18 June, this year, in which salary adjustments were announced, we were told that there was an increase from 11,305.00 to 12579.00. we were told that the net fee has been increased from 8056.90 to 8795.82 Birr only. They explained that the housing allowance has not been adjusted. This means, there was an increase from 8056.90 to 8795.82 Birr only, a mere adjustment of 738.92 birr. This has been the only increase since July and it doesn’t include any increases to the housing allowance. 

The teachers contacted by Addis Standard said that they haven’t found any responses to their demands and thus starting September 11, both teachers and technical assistants in all universities have informed Addis Standard that they have stressed in their letter,  will not partake in teaching-learning processes. 

Yohannes Benti (Ph.D.), president of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Union, told Addis Standard that the questions raised by university teachers have been submitted to the Ministry of Education and relevant government bodies and some changes have been made. The president of the association explained that the amendment to the payment rate was signed by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ahmed Shide, to be implemented in all universities from  8 July onwards. The teachers mentioned that they had a complaint about the classification of the job description of the work done by an employee and said that the classification of the level has been revised and everyone has been raised one level except for assistant graduate and professor. In addition, the teachers said that the progress is still not enough and said that it is better than before.

President Yohannes Benti (Dr.) said that the promotion does not include assistant graduates and professors, so we have submitted a request to be reconsidered. They also explained that they will look at other questions step by step and monitor them closely.

When inquired about whether the teachers’ threat to go on strike starting 11 September and what measures would be taken to insulate the potential disruptions in the teaching-learning process, the union president stated that whilst the government is trying to respond in a manner within the confines of the law, the threat of strike does not seem right and thus suggested that negotiations take center stage and not every question can be answered by September. 

Repeated attempts to contact the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education for additional information were unsuccessful. AS




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