On the morning of 26 March, all teachers from primary schools, secondary schools and junior colleges were given a briefing first thing in the morning. At first, some teachers thought it was some promotion announcement.
Then word spread and they realised it was something bigger when they learnt that all national schools were having the same briefing at the same time.
They were told of the season parking rates they need to pay from 1 August – season outdoor parking will cost $75 a month during school terms, and $15 per month during the school holidays in June, November and December. Well, what a way to start Monday morning for teachers. Ultimate Monday blues can?!
Apparently, my teacher friends were told not to share further after the briefing. The details were embargoed until 2pm on 26 March. But obviously there were many teachers who were so dulan that they spoke to reporters off-the-record because online reports from Today Online and Straits Times came out waaaay before the embargo timing.
This announcement was not completely unexpected. After all, in 2016 MOE already said that it was reviewing carpark charges for schools “in accordance to civil service guidelines”, and schools would be told of the changes, if there were any.
At that time, the Auditor-General said that some educational institutions were allowing their staff to park for free or charging fees below the market rate, and such practices “are tantamount to providing hidden subsidies for vehicle parking.”
But really must be so keh gao meh? The teachers that I know are super pissed off. They tell me that there are so many things that they cannot claim for, like the thousands of red pens that they have to buy. And how they buy small prizes for class quizzes and top up money to buy meals for excursions because the allocated amount per student is such a measly amount.
What about the times they have to send a student to the doctor using their own car? Or sending students home after a school competition that ended past 9pm? This feels like a slap in the face for many teachers.
I always thought we were a give and take society. But now we increasingly feel like a law-by-law country where there is no room for flexibility. And because you have that extra privilege, I must take it away from you, so there is equal misery for everybody.
Teachers shape the lives of their students in many ways. And often times they have to pay out of their own pockets, like buying a meal at the canteen for a student who comes to school without pocket money. Can’t we cut our teachers some slack in recognition of the other times they go the extra mile for their students?