Somehow, while chatting with the group about why they chose teaching as their career, it came up that Qingbo was having a difficult time with his wife. The reason? He was making too little money and he was too busy to give her the attention she wanted.
Until the earthquake in 2008, teachers in rural Sichuan were making 500 yuan a month. Since the earthquake, they had been making between 1000 to 1500 yuan a month. That would be between 200 to 300 dollars.
It’s true that they get to live in dormitories in the school, but it also means that they are living in rooms right next to the students, which means they don’t really get time off. As long as there are students around, they are on supervision duty. On weekends, some teachers go home but many stay because their homes are just too far away. Many of them told me that they didn’t get a chance to go home until there was a long holiday. That makes going home something they can only do three or four times a school year.
I was astounded to learn that in the teachers’ rooms in the dormitory there was no running hot water. To get hot water, they have to take a basin and go downstairs to the communal hot water tap. They put the electronic debit card that the school issues to them to track their expenses at school on the meter and, like one of them put it, “Watch the money run out of my account as the hot water runs out of the tap.”
Traditionally, Chinese teachers have always been poor. The “disdain” for money is an indication of one’s integrity. But in this day and age, when teachers play a vital role in nurturing a whole new generation who will be movers and shakers of the country, if not of the world, surely they deserve to be paid and treated better so that there will continue to be quality people entering education.