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Discussions enliven social media debate as no end in sight for teachers’ strike

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Sep 11,2019 - Last updated at Sep 11,2019

A student is seen rollerblading on a street in Amman on Wednesday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — The teachers' strike continued on Wednesday, entering its fourth day after a Monday meeting between the Jordan Teachers' Association (JTA) and the government failed to yield any results.

During the meeting, the government had proposed amending the by-law on teachers' rankings, whereby the salary increases with each rank, making the transition from one rank to the next easier and tying salaries to performance, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The government also proposed offering teachers who wish to move into the vocational branch a raise of 100 per cent instead of 50 per cent. 

The JTA rejected the government's suggestions and refused to suspend the strike, with teachers still going to work as usual but not giving any classes. 

On Wednesday,  a Facebook post by satirist Abdulmajid Al Majali said that those who describe the strike as being detrimental to students "have never complained about the overcrowded classrooms, the bad infrastructure of schools, the horrible food and the curricula that, when amended to go forward, lead us backwards".

The post continued to criticise the practices that try to put down the strike and mocked the government's suggestions to tie the raise to performance. 

“There is a legal aspect to the strike; we believe in a strong state that is governed by the rule of law, and a strong society and institutions that abide by it. In the event the [JTA] insists on continuing with the strike, every action will have its consequence," Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said on Tuesday night in a televised interview, making his first public remarks since the announcement of the strike.

This has driven some people, such as journalist Omar Ayasrah, to describe the strike as something more than an issue of a raise and a decent livelihood.

"Even though the way of dealing with teachers and their rights is sad, it shows our children one of the most sophisticated lessons on national education and showing love to one's country; a lesson of dignity, freedom, rights and democracy," he wrote. 

On Tuesday at one of the schools in Tabarbour area, teachers posted pictures of families who shared lunch together with the teachers at the school in support of the strike. 

Also on Tuesday, a live video which the JTA shared on its official Facebook page went viral, showing a man purportedly describing how he does not mind if a week goes by without his children receiving education as long as teachers get their raise and are able to afford simple life basics. 

Several teachers from around the Kingdom have been doing maintenance work to their schools, trying to convey a message that even while on strike, they have the students' best interests at heart.

The public opinion remains divided among those who support the strike and do not mind their children staying at home until everything is resolved, those who support the strike but are afraid for their children's education and those who reject the strike and find it unjustified. 

Later on Tuesday, a statement by the Jordan Strategy Forum (JSF) said that a 50 per cent pay-raise would require an additional JD120 million to JD140 million in annual government expenditure, noting that it is “impractical”. 

The JSF explained that in 2017, the value of teachers’ wages and raises stood at an approximate JD737.9 million, noting that this constituted 85 per cent of the Education Ministry’s total expenditure for that year. 

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