Local authorities pressure to end teachers’ strikes in Aleppo countryside
Enab Baladi – Aleppo countryside
The educational process has resumed in schools in the northern and eastern Aleppo countryside after the end of the strike organized by teachers since last September, demanding an increase in salaries and monthly wages and an improvement in the reality of the educational process.
Local authorities put forward “unofficial” solutions in coordination with teachers and representatives of their demands, which were enough to end the strike in the city of Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo after the absence of permanent solutions.
The strike in the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo ended without solutions for reasons imposed by the security situation and the conditions of the teachers, and the strike was renewed in the city of Qabasin, north of Aleppo, after a decision to dismiss some teachers.
Teachers, representatives on their behalf, and the local council in the city of Azaz agreed on 11 October on several items to end the strike, including recognizing the teachers’ union division in the city and its affiliated camps, in accordance with the procedures followed in the local council.
It was agreed to form a popular fund to support teachers under the joint supervision of the local council, the teachers’ union, and the committee emanating from the national conference on undergraduate education.
The independent committee follows up with the two parties on the procedures for implementing the agreement until a common formula is reached, and the procedures and clauses begin immediately after the strike is ended, and the committee ensures that no teacher who has gone on strike will be punished or dismissed.
An agreement was reached after the meeting of the independent committee (which emanated from the first national educational conference that was held in Azaz in September) with the local council in the city and the teachers’ union of the Azaz division and its affiliated IDP camps.
Teachers’ demands have been repeated for years at the beginning of each semester, refusing to accept any partial or temporary solutions from food baskets or clothing vouchers, which some teachers consider do not meet their demands.
Mohammed Sabah Hamaidi, head of the teachers’ union in Azaz, explained that the suspension of the strikes in schools began on 18 October, and students and teachers returned to their schools.
Hamaidi added to Enab Baladi that the teachers’ demands are many, and they are summarized in 14 demands and that the agreement meets part of them according to the ability of the local council to do so.
While the rest of the demands require governments and greater negotiations with the Turkish authorities that run the region, according to Hamaidi.
The implementation of the agreement was ensured by the independent committee, in which several parties participated, including representatives of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), the scientific and professional unions, the Turkish Religious Endowment, and the Syrian Islamic Council.
Without solutions, al-Bab’s strike ended by pressure
The strike ended in the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo without any partial, temporary, or even emergency solutions after the teachers’ situation reached an almost impasse for several reasons, which were summarized by one of the teachers working in the city, (Enab Baladi withheld his name for security reasons to avoid his dismissal).
The first reason lies in giving the green light from the responsible authorities to dismiss any teacher who continues to strike after the issue of the threat of dismissal was mere talk from parties not concerned with the education sector.
The second reason is the lack of commitment by some teachers to the strike process and the non-compliance with the union’s instructions to continue the demands, protests, and strikes, a point that local authorities exploited when they sensed a weakness of some teachers.
This was evident when the al-Bab city police removed the sit-in tent that teachers had built in front of the Education Directorate to demand their rights, and broke up the sit-in by force on 4 October, less than 24 hours after its construction, and confiscated the teachers’ mobile phones and deleted the video recordings on them, as some of the teachers rose up and some resigned.
The third reason is the security tension and the clashes between the local factions that the region has witnessed recently and their negative impact on the continuation of the strike and the movement, whether from the assassination of a media activist and his pregnant wife, or from the fighting between multiple factions in the area, according to the teacher.
He also pointed out that the pressure placed on teachers during the strike was apparent to everyone, describing the situation as a “battle for rights.”
“Arbitrary” decision in Qabasin renews the strike
On 17 October, eight teachers were dismissed by the local council in the city of Qabasin, north of Aleppo, on the pretext that they did not adhere to the official working hours.
The council vowed to dismiss anyone who does not adhere to working hours, according to a decision seen by Enab Baladi, in which the council relied on the work system in schools.
The decision, which came after suspending the strike and ending it without solutions or meeting the teachers’ demands, was condemned by the teachers’ unions in the areas of the countryside of Aleppo, including the teachers’ union in Qabasin, which denounced the dismissal decision and announced the continuation of the strike in Qabasin schools and its countryside until further notice.
The Qabasin Union placed all responsibility on the local council, considering the decision “illegal” and calling on it to act in accordance with the values and principles of the Syrian revolution.
The union also called for finding solutions to help teachers, who have been suffering for years, stressing that the strike is a legitimate right of teachers until their demands are met.
The Teachers’ Union in Azaz condemned the decision of the local council in Qabasin, accusing it of arbitrariness and revenge against teachers after their decision to suspend the strike in the interest of the public interest, pointing out that the local council is trying to obstruct the decision to suspend the strike instead of developing solutions.
The Azaz Union announced its solidarity with the Qabasin teachers and took escalating steps unless the council reviewed its “arbitrary” decisions.
The teachers’ demands, which they consider right, have been met with the intransigence of the authorities and their failure to meet them.
The temporary solutions did not meet the demands, and although they ended some strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations, they were soon renewed in other schools.
Teachers’ protests began in the areas controlled by the Syrian Interim Government in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo and the cities of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad on 14 October 2021 to demand an improvement in teachers’ salaries, whose value had declined with the deterioration of the Turkish lira.
According to teachers interviewed by Enab Baladi, the salary of a single school teacher increased from 700 to 1,000 Turkish liras, and a married teacher from 750 to 1,100 liras in December 2021, but it does not meet the minimum needs of the family, and does not suffice the needs of the first week of each month.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Azaz, Dayan Junpaz, contributed to this report.
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