Tunisian secondary teachers are on strike this week demanding increased education funding, and in particular a salary increase.
Teachers’ salaries are not keeping pace with the high inflation in the country.
The strike, which union leaders say is supported 100% by the members, coincides with school exams, causing frustration to students, some of whom demonstrated outside the offices of the UGTT, the public sector union which represents the teachers. However as the union points out, the fault for the disruption lies not with the teachers, but with the government.
Elections at the end of last year, brought in an administration with many elements of the old dictatorship under the ousted Ben Ali, including the leader of the party who was a minister under Ali. The government is committed to ‘trying to curb state spending and reduce fiscal deficit as required by international lenders’. This translates into increased inflation as subsidies are reduced as well as worsening conditions in public services including schools. Many classes in the country are over 70 and the infrastructure is crumbling.
As well as fighting consistently for improvements in public education, the teachers were in the forefront of the movement which ousted Ali at the beginning of 2012. However despite that struggle, it seems that the forces of international capital, in the shape of the International Monetary Fund, are reasserting themselves and once again it is ordinary people who are suffering. The reported dismay of the students points up the necessity for democratic education, which will enable them to understand that, in the words of Latin American teachers ‘the teacher who struggles is also teaching.’
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