While the Supreme Leader was delivering his speech on Iran’s Teacher’s Day, May 9, hundreds of Iranian teachers were protesting in the streets over their poor living conditions and the low educational level in the country.
Angry teachers in Tehran and a number of Iranian provinces came out to protest against the government and the Ministry of Education, surrounded by security forces from all directions. Some of them were arrested after being beaten by security forces.
Dozens of teachers rally outside the parliament from 10 am (local time).
Reports indicate number of protesters increasing.
Teachers in other cities are also protesting, sources say.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/YZFmjpN0Fs
— Iran Freedom (@4FreedominIran) May 10, 2018
♦ Why do they protest?
Teachers in Iran suffer from discrimination in salaries, pensions, insurance, and healthcare compared to the rest of the employees of other ministries in the government. Hussein Baqai, a math teacher at a preparatory school, said, “The Ministry of Education has not only slashed the budget, but it also denigrated teachers under the poverty line.”
“I do not want to leave education and work in another profession. We want nothing but our rights.”
In front of the parliament, protestors raised placards demanding the implementation of civil service law, which is enforced in other ministries.
According to Article 125 of the Service Management Act, the salaries of government employees are supposed to increase in line with the rate of inflation in the country’s general budget. However, this article does not apply to teachers, while the employees of all other ministries are taking advantage of it.
But teachers in Iran have not only protested their low salaries, but also criticized the government’s new system of education which is based on privatizing educational institutions and the development of non-governmental schools. Protesters called for reversing the decision, which could destroy Iran’s educational system, asserting that the ministry should seek to develop state-sponsored education.
“If the government continues to do so, millions of children will be deprived of their right to free education. Instead of creating a new, educated and cultured generation, we will have millions of unlettered people,” said a member of the teachers’ syndicate as he commented on the catastrophic decision of the government to privatize education.
Teachers demand that the ministry develop a state-of-the-art educational system for state schools and conduct training courses for new-coming teachers to create a new generation of teachers.
♦ Beleaguered ministry
In 2016, Minister of Education Ali Asghar Fani said, “Since the 1979 revolution until now, no minister of education has been able to solve the ministry’s crises or improve the standard of living of teachers. The ministry suffers many problems and crises.” The minister also added the ministry is the poorest in the government. But the budget deficit of the Ministry of Education is not the only problem; the ministry is facing a significant shortage in the number of teachers in different educational stages.
According to the statement of the First Deputy Minister of Education Esfandiar Jaharband, the ministry has been facing a shortage of about 300,000 teachers since 2013. He said, “If this shortage is not tackled, the educational sector in Iran will suffer a huge disaster. According to him, the ministry is facing a problem to send teachers for some 20,000 primary schools, mostly in rural areas. This exacerbates the situation and increases the chances of child dropouts in these areas.
Amir Gholami, a journalist specialized in education issues said,”The ministry has a key problem, along with a host of other crises, which is that is the rise in number of retired teachers compared to those still in service. Iran had about 800,000 retired teachers in 2018 alone. He added, “The ministry announced before if this increase continues on the same keel over the coming years, the number of retired teachers will hit one million. He described this crisis as a disaster, which will completely destroy the education in Iran. He explains this phenomenon, saying that those retired does not include only those reached the age of retirement, but also those who sought pension adjustment to work in other professions for them to improve their living conditions, as they are unable to improve their livelihoods while working as teachers.
♦ Rampant corruption
Several months ago, the deputy head of the Higher Council of the Ministry of Education Ahmed Abedini admitted in a press statement that “the ministry is under pressure from the parliament and the government, which forced it to accept the appointment of about 280 thousand people without being subjected to the necessary training they can start career as teachers.”
This made some believe that these appointments came to please some parliamentarians, who want to appoint their sons and friends to the ministry. They were supposed to be subject to the training and tests by the ministry to appoint the best among them after eliminations. But this did not happen.This is echoed in the remarks of Abdeeni who said: “The MPs ask the ministry about the quality of education. I say to them: ‘Where does the quality of education come from, while you demand the appointment of friends and relatives who did not receive any training?’
Tehran Teachers’ Association denounces violence
Back to teachers’ demonstrations, the Tehran Teachers’ Association issued a statement on May 11 condemning the security forces’ violence against protesting teachers. “Teachers clung to peacefulness and calm. But security forces attacked them, arresting dozens of them,” the statement said.
Among the detained teachers is Mohamed Habibi, a member of the Board of Directors of Tehran Teachers’ Federation, who has been arrested by police several times. “The Revolutionary Guard forces arrested Habibi from his school and ransacked his house,” Habibi’s lawyer says. According to the lawyer, the security officer told them that Habibi was in Evin prison, and that his visit has been banned so far. The lawyer was unable to identify the charges against Habibi and other detained teachers. Muhammad Habibi is considered one of the most wanted activists in the field of defending the rights of teachers. He has previously stated that the teacher is not getting his right and that the regime in Iran is not paying any attention to education, calling for the development of educational curriculum and warding off the Revolutionary Guards’ meddling in education.
♦ Retirees have demands
Not a day goes by in Iran without seeing retired teachers protesting in front of the Ministry of Education or the Parliament. They face the same problems of the teachers who are still in service: their low payments compared to the retirees of other ministries.
“Retired teachers are the poorest class in Iranian society,” says retired teacher Babak Ibrahimi. “The pension is not enough; our health insurance is very bad and does not cover most medical specializations.” According to the civil service law, the annual increase in pensions is supposed to be 20%. However, based on witnesses from retired teachers, the annual increase is only 12%, which means that the Ministry of Education violates the law.