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The Bali government need not be surprised at a dearth of teachers given the almost slave-labour conditions they endure. Worse, fill-ins are hardly even paid at all, with many earning just Rp250,000 (US$29) a month.

Yet there is astonishment in officialdom that Badung regency, the island’s most prosperous because much of the booming tourism industry is located within it, is in urgent need of 240 teachers.

This is not just a matter of recruitment; it is a question of morale for qualified teachers and those considering entering this most noble of professions.

Beyond that there persists the nationwide emergency whereby government workers and those in the private sector, many of whom are paid in accordance with a government-mandated minimum wage, receive salaries that belong to a half-century ago. It is a crisis because it provokes people who earn a pittance to seek additional streams of income, all too often involving corruption.

We have said many times that it is just not feasible to live on pay packets that contain the equivalent of a hundred US dollars a month, or even double or triple that. No one is arguing with that. The cost of living has long been rising in this country, in line with rising costs in almost every nation on Earth. Indonesia is no longer the cheap-living place it was some decades ago.

And so corruption has become ever-more necessary to bolster people’s incomes, and it in turn is destroying the country. This virulent sickness reaches into every aspect of life here, including the classroom. Many parents speak of having to bribe their way through schools, to get children enrolled; to have them pass examinations; even to get the right materials, such as books.

Bali officials say they are worried that education may suffer because of the lack of teachers. It already is. Start paying teachers properly and this sad situation may begin to reverse.

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