AMMAN — Despite last-minute pleas from the government for public school teachers not to go through with a planned strike at the start of the spring semester today, educators vowed not to come in to work until their demands are met.
Barring a breakthrough in the education ministry’s efforts to convince the Teachers Association Council (TAC) to reverse its decision, public school teachers across Jordan will refuse to teach today, affecting hundreds of thousands of students.
Minister of Education Eid Dahiyat on Sunday announced that the ministry had approved granting educators the 100 per cent professional allowance they were promised in 1996, but not all at once.
Instead, the ministry wants to raise the allowance from 70 to 80 per cent retroactively from the beginning of this year and phase in the remaining 20 per cent in 2013 and 2014, Dahiyat said during a meeting he held yesterday with representatives of the teachers in the presence of Minister of Public Sector Development Khleif Al Khawaldeh.
Under the recently enacted salary restructuring plan for public sector employees, the education allowances of all workers in the education sector were unified at 70 per cent of their basic salary.
“We cannot deny that this is a positive step from the government, but teachers want the full 100 per cent professional allowance. Educators will go on strike tomorrow [Monday],” TAC President Mustafa Rawashdeh told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.
He noted that the decision to stagger the increase over three years was met with outrage from most committees representing educators across the Kingdom.
Rapporteur Raed Azzam of the Amman Free Teachers Committee, which boycotted yesterday’s meeting, decried the ministry’s plan as “once again compromising the right of teachers to benefit from an allowance granted by His Majesty the late King Hussein in 1996”.
“The government has been rescheduling the allowance for 16 years now; do they expect us to wait another three years?” Azzam asked.
“By then the purchasing power of the dinar is likely to decrease.”
Azzam underlined that the committee boycotted the meeting because its members “know that the ministry has nothing to offer, but wants to place pressure on teachers to reverse their decision to observe a work stoppage today”.
The teachers’ planned strike caused confusion among parents, who did not know whether to send their children to school today or not.
“We do understand teachers’ demands, but the strike will only disturb our children’s education,” said Amal Jaouni, a mother of two boys who attend a secondary school in Amman.
Rima Abdul Wahab, another parent, expressed fear of the “chaos” that would erupt if teachers did not show up at schools today, saying she preferred to keep her children at home until “everything returns to normal”.
Azzam, however, clarified that teachers would show up at their schools today and would remain in their classrooms for the whole day, but would not teach any material.
“Some teachers might send their students home, but the majority agreed to go in to school today,” he explained.
With around 1.7 million students heading to schools, the education ministry has made all the necessary preparations for the new academic term, but has not given clear instructions as to what students should do today in light of the teachers’ strike.