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Teacher fired for posting about IDR700K incentive highlights financial struggles of contract educators

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A contract teacher in Bone, South Sulawesi was reportedly fired for posting about her relatively small pay on social media, her case drawing sympathy for non-permanent educators from many in Indonesia.

On Jan. 6, 34-year-old Hervina posted a note on Facebook that she received IDR700K (US$50.43) in four months’ worth of incentives from the public elementary school where she was employed on a contractual basis. On the note, she wrote that IDR500K was going towards paying her debt, IDR100K was going to her parents, and the rest was going to her children, before ending the note with, “where is the money for me?”

Soon after posting the note, Hervina said she received a message on WhatsApp from the school’s principal telling her to find work and bigger pay elsewhere.

Hervina said she apologized to the school, claiming that the note was posted out of gratitude, not sarcasm. After the issue went viral, the school said they fired Hervina not because of the post, but because a civil servant was lined up for her job, and civil servants, who enjoy permanent employment benefits, take priority over contract teachers.

Hervina has worked at the school for 16 years.

Many have come in defense of Hervina, including members of the House of Representatives (DPR). Deputy Speaker Azis Syamsuddin said Hervina is just one of many contract teachers struggling due to their meager pay.

“Teaching is an honorable job, but [contract teachers] still receive less than minimum pay that is not enough to cover their daily needs,” Azis said. 

Another lawmaker, Andi Rio Idris Padjalangi, said he will provide legal assistance for Hervina so she receives justice. The education board in Bone is mulling giving Hervina employment at another school, and calls are growing for her to be employed as a civil servant.

Contract teachers are often hired by local administrations as a cost-cutting measure to running public schools. In 2015, the Education Ministry said there were more than 800,000 contract teachers employed throughout Indonesia. While little statistical data on their pay exists, many contract teachers claim to receive less than IDR1 million per month and have long demanded for more rights and higher pay.

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