Daily NK has learned that teachers in Yanggang Province have recently been mobilized to harvest potatoes. A source says they are heading to the farms earlier than in previous years with a poor harvest expected this season.

The source, who is based in the province, told Daily NK on Thursday that the province’s education department assigned local teachers potato quotas from Sep. 25. He said early October is the optimal time to harvest potatoes, but with the authorities expecting insufficient supplies, they are putting teachers to work in the fields about 10 days earlier than last year.

According to the source, this year’s potato harvest in Yanggang Province is not looking good. Many farms have suffered flood or drought damage, or have not properly received fertilizers or manure.

Teachers believe they will not be able to fill their potato quotas unless they get an early start on digging up tubers. So they are competitively harvesting potatoes.

north korean students
A group of North Korean students in Pyongyang / Image: fresh888, Flickr, Creative Commons

Some schools are drawing censure for asking students to pony up the money needed to harvest and transport the potatoes.

The source said in Hyesan, some elementary schools collected KPW 5,000 to 10,000 per student. Middle schools collected over KPW 10,000 per student, believing teachers needed to hit their quotas before they could properly teach their classes.

Kindergarten students, too, were mobilized for the potato harvest. However, their students were not tasked with “non-tax burdens,” said the source.

Instead, kindergarten teachers not taking part in the harvest are being asked to contribute money to dig up and ship the spuds.

“Teachers are being mobilized for the potato harvest as we enter autumn,” said the source. “The propaganda calls educating future generations an important project for the future. But in fact, with (the authorities) unable to work out ration issues, teachers are being reduced to farmers.

“With recent difficulties making ends meet, teachers often ask students or parents for bribes,” he added. “Because of this, educational authority in schools is collapsing.”

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