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Statement of more than 100 teachers at the beginning of school season

Posted on: 7th October, 2014
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  • Editor: Human
  • Translator: Siavash Irani
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HRANA News Agency – One hundred teachers and more than 150 trade union and civil rights activists signed a petition about the living conditions of teachers in Iran.

The following is the full text of the statement, a copy of which has been submitted to HRANA:

While welcoming the start of new school season, the ongoing problems observed in different areas of the ministry of education don’t picture a prosperous year for teachers and students. Aside from structural and organizational problems observed after the revolution, the eight years of mismanagement during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has created enormous number of problems for the ministry of education. Over the last year, the government of new president, Hasan Rouhani, not only has not resolved these problems but also added a few more problems to the existing public education, teachers, students and families problems. 

Fani is claiming to be proud of the registration and classification of problems in the education system, while he has not submitted any tangible resolution to resolve the existing conflicts. Teacher’s financial and welfare problems such as low wages, lack of social and cultural support remain unresolved. Iran Insurance Company refuses to pay the debts due to mismanagements. The current supplementary and base insurance is inefficient, non-transparent and not worthy of the great family of teachers. The health insurance problem has become a serious problem. There are numerous complaints and reports about these problems that indicated the severity of the situation.

Economic turmoil has affected the job security for teachers at different levels, and the lack of security can be observed in various aspects. Many teachers have started working on a second job in the public and private sectors, and some of them has chosen teaching occupation only because of retirement benefits. While eluding of paying the teachers, several private school administrators can expel their teachers informally any moments. In many of these schools, there is no social insurance, or insurance premiums are taken from teachers’ paychecks in full.

School teachers do not have job security. Government and parliament deal politically with their employment problems.  Their salaries and working hours do not fit, and they do not enjoy minimum work benefits, such as Social Security.  Teachers are sometimes forced to work without any contract in place because of indifference behavior of the pre-school managers. In recent days, some of the teachers have been protesting against the government, however the government has responded them using security forces by threatening them.

But the education system is not only limited to the issues of welfare and living conditions of teachers, but a large part of the problems are related to Human Resources management. While numerous cities and areas in Iran are facing shortage of experienced and highly skilled teachers, some areas are dealing with high density of teachers and some of them are doing unrelated and unscientific activities. For example, this year in Khuzestan province, the individuals working in cleaning and school services have been used as first-grade teachers. Under these circumstances and based on false statistics, the minister of education talks about layoff requirements and reducing schools workforces, while we actually need new and professional forces for different sectors. For example, we have astronomical distance with international standards in the field of school counseling and academic guidance. In Tehran and in particular in the suburb areas, as many as 33 students are sitting in the same class.

In addition to these problems, increasing the number of private schools has been a major challenge in the recent years that dramatically affected and threatened public schools and free education. Purchasing training services through purchase of 500 thousand private school seats, giving support and encouragement packages to investors in the education sector, selling schools with business location advantage in Tehran, receiving funds in the name of school aids, facilitating the conditions to move towards having tuition fees for public schools, and initiating discussion to ask industrial businesses to invest in the science and technology schools, … are examples of  government’s intention to eliminate public and free education.

The dominant government view of the need to generate revenue has significantly affected the quality of education in our country. Educating the public about our basic concepts of humanity has no place in our education systems. The school is not a place to practice collaboration, partnership, growth, creativity and democracy. Books contents, the way teachers teach, and learning environment and management of schools, none of them is following a quality education for students. Our bureaucratic procedures, lack of proper budget for education, establishing an education program without considering students’ needs and teachers opinions, and exams lacking any quality and only representing the quantity education have resulted in a very poor education system.

In light of the above policies and despite the official claims, we have observed an increase in students’ dropout last year. Although the current government refuse to publish the exact statistical figures similar to previous governments, but our experience supports our claim. Rising costs of living and education has forced the low-income families and their children to leave the school. Surprisingly, even after recording students’ dropout, the officials do not follow up with parents about these cases to encourage them to support children’s education. Besides the students leaving schools, the issue of children education left behind the education is a serious problem. These children are often unable to attend school because of their poor economic and cultural conditions. In some cases, the students are not registered because of the lack of birth certificate or inconsistent education records. Existence of more than 300 children without birth certificates and education in the city of Nimroz in Sistan and Balouchestan province is a significant disaster. Another part of these children are immigrant families, especially children with Afghan nationality. The government treats these children inconsistently based on political desires.

It is not surprising to observe the above mentioned problems in the field of public education when the authorities have limited the right to participate in any organized activity or trade union to their own people with whom they share political interests. Unfortunately, the government does not allow teachers and other occupations to organize independent unions. For instance, the workers union has been brutally suppressed over the last several years. Some teachers’ union activists have faced long imprisonment sentences, and protests of nurses have been viciously ended in the past.

At the beginning of his presidency, Rouhani supported the activity of licensed trade unions, opening the room to deal with teachers’ union based on partisan interests. This view was not limited to the government, and other organizations including those involved with teachers affairs prefer partisan interests to the problems that teachers are facing. Despite their claims to resolve teachers’ problems, they use this as an opportunity to lobby through the pyramid of power and gain political power.  In light of these events, it would be very difficult to discuss existence of independent teachers’ organization.

As a group of teachers and students, we express our concerns about the future of public education in Iran and believe that we should demand our requests in view of the existing problems. We call upon all teachers, students and families to support the following requests:

1. According to official sources that the government’s poverty line is a million eight hundreds thousands Tooman, we request to set the minimum wage of teachers above the poverty line.

2. We urge the government officials to facilitate teachers’ health insurance, pension plan, and other social services.

3. Privatization of public and education under any circumstances is violation of fundamental human rights and must be stopped.

4. Education is a basic right of every child (Iranian, immigrant) and free education must be supported for everybody.

5. The Education system does not require staff adjustment, but it needs improved organization and human resource management.

6. Protests, sit-ins and follow-up requests, all, are fundamental rights of teachers. We support the recent movement of primary school teachers and call on the government to stop persecution of these teachers.

7. Any form of prejudice in Educational system is condemned and must be prohibited. Gender, cultural, religious, ethnic and language discriminations should be completely eliminated.

8. Teachers must have the right to express their opinion without any form of persecution and retaliation. Imprisoned teachers must be freed from prisons immediately.

9. Teachers have the right to organize and participate in unions, and the government cannot take away their rights for any excuse.

10. we call upon all teachers to support teachers unions. We need to become united to resolve our issues, and support other occupations and trade unions when necessary.

Wishing a better world of peace, freedom, equality

Dear fellow teacher and countrymen

This letter has been prepared by a group of Iranian teachers and has been signed by more than 100 teachers including teachers working in private or public schools, retired teachers, or teachers dismissed from work. Moreover, about 150 political activists, trade, labor, the environment, women, children, artists, students, teachers’ ordinary citizens from different fields have supported teachers’ movements by signing this statement.

If you would like to support this statement and free and public education, you may refer to the following link and sign the statement.