Media outlets recently reported that university professors intended to strike over the nation’s high cost of living. A university lecturer with a Masters degree reportedly earns a net salary of 8,000 birr, according to what I read.
We all know what a person living in this country today can afford with this net salary. The minimum rent that can be charged for a single-room “house” in the city is probably 3,000 birr. What can these people do with the remaining funds, I wonder?
Being a university lecturer is a prestigious position. Education, among other things, contributes to civilization. As a result, these people are expected to contribute to the country’s civilization.
They, ironically, are not beneficiaries of what civilization has to offer. They are only givers, not recipients.
How can these people inspire their students if they can’t even feed themselves?
How can these people be motivated to raise a generation that is inquisitive, hardworking, innovative, and successful in every way if they are unable to make it to the end of the month without borrowing money from friends and family to meet their most basic needs?
We expect these individuals to go beyond what is written in textbooks and inspire their pupils to conduct independent research, come up with novel ideas, and think creatively.
One cannot expect a university lecturer to be motivated to teach textbooks effectively, let alone conduct research and innovate, if they are unable to pay their rent in a decent home, send their kids to decent schools, afford decent meals (or at least regular three meals per day), and afford healthcare for themselves and their families.
Public university lecturers are notorious for looking for classes to fill at private colleges and taking on consulting work that might not be beneficial to their work at the public university where they are employed.
Sad to say, they are not permitted to do so out of concern that it would divert them from their primary duties, which are teaching and conducting research at the public university where they are employed.
What is less obtrusive? Having to constantly consider and worry about your monthly costs and the depressing truth that you will never, ever be able to afford a house and a car of your own can be very distracting.
If the pay they receive from public universities was enough to allow them to live the minimum level of respectable life that a person with a good education deserves, these people would not have looked for additional classes to pay for their monthly expenses.
People with PhDs from universities in Europe or the US frequently choose not to return home or search for employment elsewhere but Ethiopia. If they do, the only place they want to live is in Addis Ababa or another significant city in the nation.
The extremely subpar living conditions that one can afford if they decide to work at public universities in small towns across the nation completely deter them.
In the days of my parents, university lecturers could afford to purchase their own homes and vehicles and enroll their kids in “good” schools. University professors were respected back then because they valued their own careers.
They were inspired and driven by their work, and they chose to become university lecturers and professors. Sadly, the profession no longer enjoys the same level of respect as it did in the past.
Therefore, should their query be addressed? It should, indeed!
The bright minds of educated professors, not a string of massive university campuses, are what will advance higher education in this nation. We should be scrambling to find ways to keep those smart minds instead!