Teachers strike continues for second day

by Laila Azzeh
Feb 08,2012

Gov’t downplays extent of work stoppage, but teachers, parents say otherwise.

AMMAN – As a nationwide strike by public school teachers entered its second day on Tuesday, activists warned that the government’s “silence” and “negativity” in dealing with the teachers’ demands will only “make things worse for all involved parties”.

Ministry of Education Spokesperson Ayman Barakat issued a statement yesterday saying that classes were held as usual in many schools across Jordan, while some schools only held certain classes, and teachers refused to teach at all in others.

However, teachers and parents claimed that more teachers took part in the strike yesterday than on Monday, expressing their “surprise” over the government’s stance in “playing down the protest”.

“Students, especially those in secondary school, are the ones most harmed by the teachers’ escalatory measures… they are victims of the government’s inflexibility and the teachers’ insistence on using students to place pressure [on the government],” said Saeed Qatameen, who has three sons that attend a public school in Tafileh.

Parents gathered outside several schools in various governorates yesterday, threatening to head to court if teachers continue their work stoppage and asking the government to intervene so their children can start their spring semester, describing the teachers’ action as “irresponsible”.

“Parents should understand that improving the situation of teachers is a win-win situation,” Raed Azzam of the Amman Free Teachers Committee countered, asking how parents believe that teachers who spend their nights “frying falafel” can provide their children a proper education.

Yesterday’s strike, which activists said took place in more than 90 per cent of the Kingdom’s state schools, took a new turn when directors of the schools and education departments started “threatening” and “interrogating” teachers.

“They wanted to pressure teachers to end their strike by terrorizing them,” Azzam charged, stressing that this act is considered a “dangerous turn in an already appalling situation”.

Barakat voiced the ministry’s commitment to communicate with teachers and meet their “achievable” demands.

The teachers’ main demand is an increase in their professional allowance from 70 per cent to 100 per cent of their basic salary.

Under the recently enacted public sector salary restructuring plan, allowances of all workers in the education sector were unified at 70 per cent of their basic salary.

The ministry has proposed raising the allowance from 70 to 80 per cent retroactively from the beginning of this year and phasing in the remaining 20 per cent in 2013 and 2014, but the compromise offer was met with outrage, as teachers said they have been waiting for their full professional allowance for more than 16 years.

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Sector Development Khleif Al Khawaldeh underlined that raises in the salaries of teachers and employees in the education ministry under the salary restructuring plan are considered “rewarding” in light of the difficult economic situation, especially when compared to the raises granted to other public sector employees.

In a statement to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, he added that the salary restructuring plan will cost the government JD110 million after its latest decision to raise teachers’ professional allowances gradually over three years, which he said would cost JD76 million or 61 per cent of the total cost of the restructuring plan.

Khawaldeh underlined that the government’s decision to raise the professional allowance to 100 per cent over three years was “out of its commitment to the role teachers play in the educational process”.

Source: The Jordan Times.
Link: http://jordantimes.com/teachers-strike-continues-for-second-day.

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