AMMAN: Nearly all state school teachers in Jordan began a strike on Sunday, insisting that they will not return to teaching until the government’s promise of a 50 percent increase is addressed.
A statement by the powerful teachers’ union that called for the strike said that “commitment to the strike was nearly 100 percent.”
Naser Nawasrah, the union’s vice president, told the press that teachers “will not enter the classrooms until those responsible for transgressions against teachers during Thursday’s protest are held accountable.”
Speaking on Radio Al-Balad at the end of the first day of the strike, Nawasrah complained the government had not responded to the demands of the teachers.
“We have asked for a long time to have a dialogue but were stonewalled, and then when we protested our teachers were humiliated, beaten and arrested.”
Nawasrah said that there had been no plans for a strike until September, but the harsh government response pushed them to strike. “The attacks on the teachers and their dignity is what pushed us to this. On Thursday our teachers were attacked and violence was used against them, they were arrested and beaten up and humiliated.”
Jumana Ghunaimat, the government spokesperson, said that the Jordan government “respects teachers and the teaching profession and is open to dialogue with the teachers about their strike.”
Wajih Oweis, a former education minister, told Arab News that it is hard to find an easy solution. “It is true the teachers were verbally promised a 50 percent increase and we tried to work this issue out by turning the across-the-board raise into a raise based on performance.” Oweis said that there is no money currently available for such a raise. “The 2019 budget doesn’t have the 112 million dinars ($158 million) needed. We suggest a five-year plan where the increase is 10 percent each year.”
Responding to Oweis’ suggestion, the acting head of the teacher’s union refused to comment on an offer not made directly by the government. “Until now the government has not provided any numbers. Why should we agree to compromises that have not been offered to us? No government official or minister has contacted us directly with any numbers,” Nawasrah told the radio station on Sunday afternoon. “If they can make money available based on merit, then the excuse that there is no money is rejected,” he concluded.
Media sources have said the government has questioned the legality of the strike and was planning to find legal remedies to stop it.
Ahmad Awad, the founder and director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that the strike is legal and part of the civil protests aimed at improving the lives of Jordanians.
“The teachers gave enough time before they went on strike and that is all that is needed, the conditions of teachers is very bad and their demands have been promised since 2014 so it is a legal and logical demand.”
The government is short-sighted in its outlook toward teachers.”
For its part, the Public Security Department (PSD) said in a press conference Saturday that its personnel “practiced restraint” during Thursday’s protests, but they “were driven to the use of force by some protesters who were shoving their way to reach the Fourth Circle (in central Amman).”