Associations want the PM to apologize
University teachers are displeased by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) comments on their requests for better salary and administrative reforms. Government university lecturers have long asked the government for adjustments, mostly to salary and job grades.
In a meeting with representatives of youths held at the new headquarters of Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) last weekend, Abiy was questioned about how the government will respond to the calls lecturers have been making.
As a result of the implementation of Job Evaluation and Grading (JEG) in 2019, the academics have made lists of inquiries they want the government to respond to. Based on the urgency, their inquiries were later divided into three groups.
Representatives of the university lecturers’ associations met with authorities at the Civil Service Commission, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Revenues, and Negeri Lencho (PhD), chair for Human Resource and Technology Affairs Standing Committee at the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) in Addis Ababa in May of this year.
The lecturers have been presenting their inquiries to senior officials since April of last year, according to Tesfaye Kebede (PhD), who is the president of Bahir Dar University Teachers Association and in-charge of public relations for 10 universities in the Amhara Regional State.
“Three of the questions, on which we were calling for adjustment on work grades, house allowances and JEG, were classified in the most urgent ones last May, but two of them are not still adjusted,” Tesfaye said.
In his response, Abiy noted that the nation faces economic difficulties and urged professors to be patient with their requests. He claimed that the lecturers must put up with the circumstance due to Ethiopia’s economic hardship and the international pressure, as well as the ongoing war.
Additionally, he said that some instructors, who only offer four to five credit hours of instruction, are requesting higher salaries same as other university lecturers.
“There are lecturers teaching four to five hours in a week and spending the rest of the week in other places calling for strikes on social media. This won’t benefit anyone, including the lecturers themselves,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said that while questions were legitimate, they would need to be answered one at a time for everyone’s benefit. The problems must be viewed from the standpoint of helping the nation as a whole.
Since the JEG application in 2019, an additional 30 billion birr has been required in the budget to boost pay for civil servants.
About the small credit hours the Prime Minister said some lecturers cover teaching, Tesfaye said that there are even more teachers with no credit hours, in contrast to the minimum 12 credit hours of teaching.
“There are some lecturers appointed based on their political affiliations and with zero credit hours of teaching,” said Tesfaye.
More professors have voiced their displeasure with Abiy’s remarks on social media platforms.
Gashaw Alemu, the president of the Arba Minch University Teachers Association, was one of them. Over 800 of the university’s 1,000 lecturers are association members.
Gashaw told The Reporter that he did not anticipate the Prime Minister to dismiss their pleas with what he described “illogical explanation.” The pressure Ethiopia is under is felt more keenly by the academics, in his opinion, than by anybody else.
“We have been submitting our requests for long, but there had not been even a single response from the officials,” said Gashaw, explaining how officials turned a deaf ear.
The delay in the house allowance payments after it had been approved two months ago was one of the measures that Gashaw and his peers welcomed, but did not materialize. “We should have received a proper update, no matter how small the money may be,” he said.
In a meeting two months ago, the representatives of each university’s associations were notified by the State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalegn (PhD), that the house allowances had been approved by the office of the Prime Minister.
Presidents of both university associations informed The Reporter that they are not responsible for any unilateral acts that lecturers may take. The strikes that the academics are reportedly planning to take in the upcoming month are not supported by their associations.
Feleke Worku, president for the Association of Injibara University Teachers, stressed that the appeals his fellow lecturers are making aren’t political. “It is a question for a better life and we fear there is a high probability for teachers to leave the profession for better options if unaddressed,” he said.
With over 500 lecturers at his university, Feleke’s association called for an apology by the Prime Minister.