Education is hard, teachers earn 1500

Education is hard, teachers earn 1500
“Teachers are being paid better all over the country, and we’re still suffering.” More than 100 teachers in Linxia County, Gansu Province made fun of them.

The group of “free teachers” is new to many people.

Most of them work in remote mountainous areas, where they receive a monthly living allowance of 1,500 yuan, have no BBBs and face the uncertainty of being fired at any time. Many of them are women. Some have been teaching for more than a decade, others just a few years. They were substituted teachers in disguise.

A teacher in class at a primary school in Gansu province
They have as much or more work to do as regular teachers, but they have nothing to do with awards and teacher training beyond the school level.

“Are we going to be obligated to the end of our lives?” they ask in the assembled WeChats.


The leader is unaware of the existence of this group

On February 28, a teacher in the 161 volunteer teachers’ WeChat group said that their school district had just held a meeting to inform them that the volunteer teachers’ agreement, which had been signed once a year, had suddenly been changed to one for a semester. The news upset them, and the WeChat group broke the usual silence.

Education Bureau notice forwarded by teachers in WeChat group
“To unload the mill for us, I suppose?” Many see it as a sign to leave after only one semester. The group had a dispute, part of the initiative not to sign an agreement, to find the county leadership communication. Some people think they should sign the agreement first, because many of them have been working for more than a decade, and if they don’t sign the agreement and get fired, they lose their livelihood. Others “hate that iron doesn’t turn into steel,” blaming members of the group who remain silent at such times.

It was not the first time they had been uneasy, nor the first time they had been agitated to improve their situation.

In December 2020, a note taken by a school salesman to attend a meeting at the county education bureau was widely circulated among free education teachers. The note said that all the teachers were dismissed because they “did not meet the requirements for non-public teachers”. After that, many free teachers who had worked for more than 10 years found that their own information could not be queried in the national teacher management information system.

A school clerk to county education bureau meeting notes
“No, no, no,” Zhang, director of the county’s education bureau, said on March 1 in response to a South Wind window reporter. “As long as he is still a teacher, he will be under our management and will not be removed from the system.”

On January 29, 2021, Wu Peng, a volunteer teacher, found “clues” in the salary information he received. The previous month, the message had described the transaction as a “salary transaction.” This time it was a “transfer transaction,” and the word “salary” was missing. Wu Peng’s sense of unease grew. He told this to the other teachers in the group. They linked the two incidents together and all thought it was a bad sign.

In the salary information received by free education teachers, the transaction description changed from the original “wage transaction” to “transfer transaction”.
At this point, Wu Peng and his family thought they should do something. After a discussion, they decided to let more than 200 people in the group write a joint application report to the education bureau and county leaders. After the application report was written, Wu Peng asked the teachers in the group one by one to sign and press the seal. Finally, 112 people signed.

The free teacher signs the application report
The application reports were sent to the education bureau of the county and the secretary of the party secretary of the county. After that, they went to the education bureau for several times to inquire. The education bureau responded that the proposal to improve the benefits of free teachers had been included in the New Year’s budget report and submitted to the finance bureau.

Zhang, director of the education bureau, said teachers did come to the bureau to complain about their low pay. “We had a meeting yesterday (February 28) and discussed giving them an appropriate salary increase, and we have reported it to the county government.”

On the morning of February 21, Ma Fan, a free education teacher, and four other people went to the deputy head of the county in charge of education to report the situation. “She was approachable and said we weren’t coming to her. She didn’t know we were in the group yet. She said she would be on our side, but didn’t know how it would end.”

Ma Fan told reporters that this was an embarrassment for his group. After working for more than a decade, “the leaders don’t know that such a group exists.”

Education is hard, teachers earn 1500
A senior class at a school in Gansu province
On March 1, the reporter contacted the deputy county magistrate in charge of education by telephone. The reporter indicates that wants to ask the question that teaches a teacher about justice, the other side expresses this question should ask education bureau.

That’s not all.

When Wu Peng first named his group, the South Window reporter typed “free education teachers” into the search box. The search page failed to find a conceptual explanation of the term. The top entry was “what teachers have learned”.

The reporter went to gansu province education hall website search again, without any content. I reported the result to Wu Peng. “We are an unknown community,” he said. “How can we just look up information about it?”

Later, from a group of voluntary teachers sent to the “voluntary teaching agreement”, the reporter knew the true meaning of voluntary teachers – volunteer teachers. The agreement begins with the statement that the free teachers were the product of the county’s “response to the strong demand of teachers’ college (middle school) graduates and the lack of teachers in the schools.”

This agreement is generally signed directly with the school. Article 2 of the agreement states that “Party B’s voluntary voluntary teaching is the premise of Party B’s voluntary teaching. During the period of voluntary teaching, Party B shall be uniformly distributed a monthly living subsidy of RMB 1,500 by the County Education Bureau”. In 2015, the living allowance was 930 yuan, compared with 200 yuan in 2007.

Article 4 of the agreement reads, “Party A shall not bear any responsibility for Party B’s employment, and Party B’s voluntary teaching has nothing to do with employment.” Article 8 reads, “In case of any physical injury, disability or accident occurring to Party B during the voluntary teaching period, Party B shall bear all responsibilities and have nothing to do with Party A.”