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Time Up for Substitute Teachers in Guangdong

Substitute teachers will have a mixed future in Guangdong, the provincial Party secretary said on Wednesday.

In a meeting with local educators and officials, Wang Yang said the time was ripe to rid the province of such transitional posts for the benefit of both students and the teachers themselves.

He gave education authorities in all cities three alternatives: one, promote existing substitutes to full teaching posts and provide them with proper training and decent salaries; two, offer substitutes non-teaching positions; and three, fire them.

Authorities in the Pearl River Delta cities have one year to finish the task, while all others have two years, Wang said.

The decision to eradicate the position of "substitute teacher" came after hearing countless complaints from them, the Party chief said Thursday.

"I have heard far too many complaints from teachers about how miserable their lives are," Wang was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying.

Xiao Chu works as a substitute teacher in the city of Zhaoqing, where the minimum monthly salary is supposed to be 580 yuan (US$85).

"But I earn only 400 yuan a month," Xiao told China Daily on Thursday.

"Are we just cheap labor?"

Substitute teachers do the same job as authorized teachers, but are paid only a third of the wages, she said.

Song Hai, vice-governor of Guangdong, said on Wednesday that the average monthly income for a State-employed teacher in the province is 1,200 yuan.

"But substitutes get only 300 to 400 yuan," he said.

"In the poorest areas, they get as little as 200 yuan."

Of Guangdong's 756,000 middle and primary school teachers, 52,000 are substitutes, he said.

"We have more than any other province in the country," he said.

However, getting rid of substitute teacher posts will not solve all of the province's education problems, Luo Weiqi, head of the Guangdong education bureau, said this week.

The problem is that even authorized school teachers in rural areas earn less than civil servants, he said.

According to a report published in Monday's Yangcheng Evening News, the provincial government has said it will "strive" to increase teachers' salaries to a level equivalent to those of civil servants.

The government also plans to include rural teachers within the social security system to improve their living and working conditions, Luo said without giving details.

Also, a more transparent system is needed to supervise the transfer of money from provincial governments to lower-level authorities that is intended to go to teachers.

(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2008)

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