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N. Korean teachers increasingly turn to students’ parents for help

North Korean teachers facing severe financial hardship are turning to parents for help. While schools harshly criticize teachers for such behavior, some teachers are pushing back against the criticism as they struggle to put food on the table.

“A growing number of teachers in Hamhung are asking students’ parents to help them in any way they can – with rice, money, or other items. Schools that have learned of the practice are calling out the teachers, provoking them to express their frustration and outrage,” a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

According to the source, five teachers at a middle school in Hamhung were called to the principal’s office for criticism in mid-February. This was after school officials learned that the teachers had requested or received help from students’ parents.

“You may be struggling, but you shouldn’t ask for help so blatantly. And if you do ask for help, make sure you stick with parents who won’t cause trouble. I’ll let this slide this time, but if it comes up again, you should know it’s going to be a serious problem,” the principal warned the five teachers.

This provoked an outburst from one of the teachers. “Although I’m a teacher, I’m first and foremost a mother to my children and a wife to my family. If I can’t earn money, my family will starve. But I don’t see the government giving us rations. The only option I have is to ask my parents for help. That’s all I have,” she said.

Another of the five teachers said, “You can make an issue of this if you want; you can even dismiss us from our posts if you want. Hunger takes precedence over everything. How good a teacher do you think I’ll be if my family’s livelihood is in jeopardy? Do you think I enjoy going to every student’s house and asking for help because my family has nothing to eat?

While there is nothing new about North Korean teachers blatantly asking school parents for help, the practice has become more common in recent years.

North Korean teachers stopped receiving rations when the state’s rationing system collapsed during a horrific famine euphemistically known as the “Arduous March” in the 1990s. But with most North Koreans facing financial difficulties since the pandemic began, it has become harder for teachers to make a living without the help of their students’ parents, the source said.

“This clearly shows the reasons behind the declining quality of education and student performance in North Korea. But the government keeps demanding that we improve the quality of education without doing anything to address the underlying problems,” the source said.

“Some teachers say it would be much better to earn money as a private tutor than to teach for free in a school. There’s an urgent need to ensure that teachers can make a living.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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February 29, 2024 at 12:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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