Primary and secondary school teachers in New Zealand united together for the first time on Tuesday in what’s being considered the country’s largest school strike. More than 500,000 teachers walked out to demand higher pay, better working conditions, and more respect, according to the Guardian.
The walkout came a day before the government was set to release its “well-being” budget to improve New Zealanders’ living standards. Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa and Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) are advocating to get the teachers a 15% raise to continue their work.
"Teachers have spoken — they want the government to find a solution, now. Our children cannot wait and neither can our teachers,” NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart said in a statement.
Earlier in May, when the strikes were first announced, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the government doesn’t have any budget left to spend on teacher salaries. The government offered teachers 3% pay raises on three separate occasions, but they turned them down.
Local community spaces have opened their doors to children during the strike, but some parents have opted to take their children to work or to the picket lines.
The New Zealand opposition National party is not showing support for the action. Party leaders said that the protestors who blocked traffic caused disruption to parents across the country, and low-income families won’t be able to afford childcare.
Educators in New Zealand have raised concern over the lack of funding and benefits for some time. Lack of sufficient teachers threatens students’ ability to learn and receive a quality education. In 2018, over half of New Zealand primary schools did not have all the teachers they needed to begin the school year. The government had to recruit teachers from the UK and Australia to make up for the discrepancy, according to the Guardian. Despite the effort, principals have had to step in and teach to make up for the staff shortages, and schools asked retired teachers to come back.Embed from Getty Images
“The outcome shows teachers and principals are united and resolute in their commitment to getting significantly improved pay, time, and support for learning needs,” Stuart said.