Teachers of Aleppo countryside insist on strike till demands met
Enab Baladi – Azaz
In conjunction with a strike in several schools since the beginning of last September, the pace of sit-ins and demonstrations organized by teachers has increased in the opposition-held northern and eastern Aleppo countryside.
Despite the intervention of local councils, dignitaries, and military factions, teachers continued with their strike because the proposed solutions did not meet their demands and because sometimes force was used against the peaceful teachers.
Rejecting partial solutions and “imaginary” promises, increasing salaries and monthly wages, and improving the reality of the educational process, all of which are demands insisted upon by teachers in Azaz, al-Bab, Akhtarin, and Marea.
Teachers in Azaz and al-Bab received a notification from the Education Office of the Local Council and the Directorate of Education in both cities asking them to enroll in their schools on 27 September, under the pain of having their salaries suspended.
On the 28th of the same month, the local council of Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo said that it had met with representatives of the city’s dignitaries and teachers, and they discussed the educational reality and agreed to open schools as of 2 October.
Mohammad Sabah Hamidi, the head of the teachers’ union in Azaz, told Enab Baladi that the strike will continue until the issuance of an initiative that suits the teachers’ visions and aspirations and that the initiative stems from a decision maker in the region.
Regarding the notification received by the teachers, Hamidi indicated that the Education Office and the Directorate of Education do not have the authority to dismiss any teacher.
He added that the union had previously approached teachers with regard to several demands and issues, including exams and curricula, the study plan, overcrowding in schools, and the development of educational aids.
The demands were met with indifference because they were issued by the (Educational Office and the Directorate of Education), which do not have the decision, according to Hamidi, because the matter is up to the “Turks.”
On 3 October, a gathering of Azaz people and dignitaries (which includes some public figures in the city, including notables, clerics, military, and media people) issued a statement, calling on the Azaz Council to recognize the union as the legitimate representative of teachers, re-elect the division, and form a financial fund to support teachers. The Azaz Council also demanded measures to end the strike.
The statement was met with the teachers’ refusal to have any party representing them except the union, as the initiatives remain trapped as data without any actual application on the ground.
The head of the teachers’ union in Azaz clarified that teachers support any “real” initiative put forward by any party to solve the problem of education and teachers, pointing out that the union looks at it positively and flexibly but that no solutions are presented that meet the demands.
The union is a formation that includes teachers that defends them and demands their rights and is not linked to local bodies such as a council or government.
Teachers are angry
The teachers’ protest in the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo turned from a peaceful tent erected in front of the Education Directorate to angry demonstrations in the city’s streets after the sit-in was forcibly dispersed, and the tent was removed by the local police on 4 October, less than 24 hours after its installation.
A member of the local council in al-Bab and the deputy head of the teachers’ union, Hassan Huwaish, explained to Enab Baladi that about 50 members surrounded the tent and forcibly removed it, confiscated the teachers’ mobile phones, and deleted the video recordings from them.
Hours after the tent was removed, teachers, civilians, and activists gathered in front of the police building and demanded that those who forcibly removed the sit-in tent be held accountable and that they stand by the teachers instead of trying to silence them.
Huwaish said that the union arranged to build a new tent and sit-in until the demands were met.
For his part, the head of the teachers’ union of Azaz said that the strike is the only option for teachers to obtain their rights.
Strikes and demonstrations organized by teachers are frequent in the areas controlled by the Turkish-backed Syrian Interim Government (SIG) in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo and the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
In December 2021, the local councils operating in the region raised the salaries of employees and workers in all sectors by 40%, but the demonstrations continued at a varying pace amid many promises to meet the demonstrators’ demands.
The salary of a single school teacher increased from 700 Turkish liras to one thousand liras, and the married teacher’s salary increased from 750 to 1100 lira.
(1 US dollar = 18.59 Turkish Lira)
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