Thousands of teachers stood up for higher wages and better work conditions in Tunis, Tunisia, on Wednesday, Reuters reports. The protest was one of many rallies teachers have organized across the country this month.
Middle and high school teachers trekked to Tunisia’s capital city to protest in front of the education ministry. They were also demanding early retirement, an issue which has been in the spotlight since parliament recently rejected a proposed law to raise the minimum age from 60 to 62.
“No to the humiliation of teachers,” they chanted.
Teachers are not only advocating for better conditions for themselves, but they also want to improve educational institutions for their students.
Tunisia has been in a state of unrest ever since former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 as a result of the first “Arab Spring” uprising, which was fueled by people’s dissatisfaction with unemployment and poverty. Although Tunisia transitioned to democracy relatively smoothly, the country’s economy hasn’t fully recovered.
“The people want fiscal justice,” they shouted.
The educators protested to have Tunisia’s education minister Hatem Ben Salem resign — they hold him responsible for not pushing along negotiations regarding their rights.
Parents have turned to social media to criticize the boycotts that they feel harm their children’s academic performances, according to Africa News.
TUNISIA— UnlockTheNow (@UnlockTheNow) December 10, 2018
Disagreements over salary increase, professional promotions, special grants among others, have fueled tensions between the Tunisian government and the teachers union.
Teachers in the country have since boycotted the first trimester exams. #UnlockTheStorypic.twitter.com/OBVL3PvhEY
Teachers view the country’s 2016 $2.8 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, that required deficit and public service cuts, as a direct attack against the public education system.
“We started negotiations six months ago and made efforts and concessions to ensure their success but the government is foot-dragging in dealing with teachers,” Al Assad El Yaqoubi, secretary general of the high school teachers’ union said at the demonstration.
Dropout rates for primary education in Tunisia are about 50%, disproportionately affecting children living in poverty, especially girls in rural areas, according to the nonprofit organization the Borgen Project. The country needs to protect and invest in its educators more than ever.