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China schools owe teachers over $1 billion
Updated: 2005-12-20 15:13

Rural schools across China owe their teachers more than 10 billion yuan ($1.24 billion) in back pay, leading the central government to consider paying teachers itself, the China Daily said on Tuesday.

Wang Zhengming (L) escorts his pupils on the hillside ally in the remote and unprivileged Weiyuan County of Northwest China's Gansu Province. Wang has taught studens here for three generations and brought out 76 university students in all. [South Weekend]
Failure to pay teachers' already low salaries, in many cases because the money was lost to corruption, had resulted in a severe shortage of qualified teachers in schools in China's vast, impoverished countryside, the newspaper said.

"If the wages of the more than six million rural teachers was allocated from the budget of the central government, their income would be stable and their worries about their basic living conditions dispelled," it said in a commentary.

"Then more qualified teachers would be retained by rural schools."

With licensed teachers wary of leaving cities, rural schools had to staff classrooms with unqualified teachers who received as little as $5 or $6 a month, the China Daily said.

More than 500,000 uncertified teachers work at rural schools in 12 western provinces.

"Many have their pay in arrears," it said.

The government's current investment in education was equal to only three percent of the country's GDP, below the world average of five percent, a government statistician has said.

And arbitrary school fees have made even primary education, part of the nine years of schooling considered compulsory in China, beyond the means of many rural families.

The costs of higher education, all but free 20 years ago, have also skyrocketed past what many millions of Chinese can bear since the government ended full subsidies.

In a widely reported case, a Chinese mother committed suicide in September because she could not afford her child's college tuition.

China has pledged to increasing funding for rural education to make compulsory education completely free by 2010.

($1=8.071 Yuan)

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