Jordan's teachers unfaltering as they enter third week of strike action

Talks between the Jordan Teachers’ Syndicate and the government failed to reach an agreement at the weekend

TOPSHOT - Jordanian teachers clash with security forces during a protest in the capital Amman on September 5, 2019. Thousands of public school teachers marched in central Amman demanding higher wages, just four days after the start of school year, as the Jordan Teachers Association's (JTA) demanded a 50 percent salary increase according to its leader. / AFP / Khalil MAZRAAWI
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Jordan's teachers are continuing their fight for what they say is a long-overdue salary increase, entering their third week of strike action despite the government urging students to attend classes on Sunday.

The Jordan Teachers' Syndicate and the government failed to reach an agreement in talks held at the weekend, subsequently leading teachers to continue their strike for a twelfth school day.

The government’s proposal to address teaching conditions and improve the quality of education was rejected on Saturday by the JTS.

Instead, it delivered a set of counter-demands in which it called for an apology from the government, an investigation into the alleged violations by security forces against teachers during the initial protest on September 5, and a 50 per cent salary increase — the latter being the core demand since the beginning of the strike.

Despite a failed attempt to reach an agreement, the government demand that students attend school "as usual" caused uproar on social media.

Twitter user Sumya-Wael called the move "shameful", while another Basil Mansour said the government had "a legal responsibility" regarding students' welfare after it issued a statement telling them to attend school in the knowledge that the teachers are striking. He said students shouldn't be involved in the dispute in this way.

Jordanian news site Roya reported that students had attended a school in Karak, a city 130 kilometres south of Amman, and that teaching had resumed on Sunday. However, comments under the story disputed this claim.

Muneer Wardat, 44, a teacher trainer at JTS and a trainer in media education at the Ministry of Education, said his school in Irbid, a city north of Amman, remained empty.

"The government is using the press and social media to try and pressure the JTS into ending the strike. When a principal of a school in Irbid announced she would open the school again today, the students responded by saying they stand with their teachers and support the strike. The authorities are using students in an unacceptable manner," he told The National.

“This strike is about fighting for our dignity. It’s about fighting to improve our quality of life and it’s about improving teaching standards — this isn’t just about us, it’s about the entire country’s education.”

Local reports said the representative for JTS, Noureddine Nadim said on Saturday: "The strike continues until the teachers' demands are fulfilled and there is no retreat from any teacher or the union council.

"This is an issue of rights that has been due for five years and we can only reverse it by the government's response to these demands. The ball is now in the government's court. It has to recognise the right of teachers."

During a press statement broadcast on local TV channels, Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghanimat called on the JTS to end the strike while stressing the importance "not to involve students and their right to education in these issues”.

She said a number of parents had submitted complaints to the directors of education about the strike.

On Friday, Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf And Islamic Affairs banned a number of Imams from delivering Friday prayers because they had deviated from protocol the previous week by addressing the teachers' strike.

In addition to the first legal complaint against the strike, heard at the West Amman Court on Thursday, by parents concerned about the impact of the strike on their children’s education, a second complaint has been filed against the JTS by a parent in the Balqa Governorate, north-west of Amman.

The strike began when tens of thousands of teachers across the kingdom took to the streets of Amman in protest of a 50 per cent salary increase they were promised by the government five years ago, on September 5.

The action forced the closure of many of the city’s major roads for several hours, causing chaos throughout Amman’s transport network.