By Shahriar Kia
The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) has called for a nationwide strike of teachers and other academic staff on October 14 and 15, in a recent letter that was highly critical of the Ministry of Education, in order to draw attention to how low teachers’ wages are.
Their wages were already “painfully low”, but cuts to school budgets, widespread inflation, rising cost of education and the overall economic crisis have made things much worse. The majority of teachers live below the poverty line and public schools are fast disappearing.
The mullahs are too concerned with “staying in power, defensively clutching their spoils” to take any action that would benefit the hardworking teachers or the students they instruct, having ignored previous protests by teachers about the “unconstitutional shift of educational duties”. They’ve even refused to implement the Public Service Law, passed in 2007, and have raided the Teachers’ Savings Fund, stealing roughly $1,200 from each teacher.
The letter read: “The Iranian government and parliament have failed to answer to teachers’ faltering quality of life and the ailing education system. The time has come for us to protest this systemic disorder. All have come to feel that the Ministry of Education, as the face and custodian of this system encompassing millions of people, is without a practical program or vision for improving our educational infrastructure. Instead of attending to the quality of formation and to teachers’ livelihoods, the ministry opts increasingly for monetizing education and impoverishing teachers.”
The strike will start on Sunday – the Iranian workweek runs from Saturday to Thursday – and will feature sit-ins in the administrative offices of schools.
The letter read: “We are going to stage sit-ins because teachers can’t go to class in these conditions. In any case, classes held in makeshift camps, overcrowded to the extreme, can hardly be put to any use… We ask that [educational staff] refuse to go to classes and that they raise students awareness on the factors compelling this initiative. We ask the school principals to join in and to refrain from the harsh treatment of our colleagues. We warn security offices and institutions not to retaliate against the teachers taking part in demonstrations. We have tasted detention and incarcerations, and some of our brave colleagues are still in chains today. We ask that you lay down your weapons of repression.”
The union went on to say that if their demands are not met, then they would escalate our general strikes come November.
Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.