More than 100,000 public schools teachers remain on strike in Jordan for a second week in a row demanding a 50 per cent pay rise to their near poverty-line salaries.
They’re demanding the government honour its five-year-old promise to boost salaries 50 per cent since they, like most Jordanians, suffer high inflation, abysmal living conditions, and exorbitant costs of living.
Some 1.3 million public schools students have not attended classes since the start of the school year because of the strike.
One teacher in the capital, Amman, told Al Jazeera the government has misled the public about their plight.
“Public schools teachers are barely eking out a living on government salaries and, therefore, must look for second jobs such as driving taxis or working as labourers in order to support their families,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Tens of thousands of teachers protested at government headquarters in Amman and in other provinces last week demanding Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz to engage directly to resolve the teachers’ complaints instead of delegating to subordinates.
Teachers union officials told Al Jazeera some protesting teachers were verbally abused and physically assaulted by police and paramilitary forces during the demonstration. More than 50 teachers were arrested but later released.
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A public school teacher in Jordan makes between 360-450 Jordanian dinar per month (N178,959-N227,278), about equal to the “absolute poverty line” of 340 dinar (N171,443) for a family of five each month, according to Jordan’s department of statistics.
According to the teachers union, a first-year teacher with a Bachelor degree makes about 360 dinar (N178,959) a month with an automatic yearly raise of about 3-10 dinar (N1,789-N4,652), depending on their qualifications and experience.
The government says the teachers’ demands amount to 116 million dinars (N58 trillion), an amount it says it does not have.
Officials argue any raises must be tied to teachers’ performance, which means they would have to publish independent research, take outside courses, and attend academic seminars in order to qualify. Even then, very few would actually do so, the report by Aljazeera stated.
“On top of our school work and family obligations, where we would we find the time to conduct research or take outside training to qualify for the government raise?” asked the teacher.
Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told local media on Tuesday the prime minister – who was previously minister of education – doesn’t have to meet the teachers personally.
“The solution to this issue is [for the teachers union] to sit with the ministerial delegation without any pre-conditions and to push for the return of the students to their seats,” Ghunaimat said.