Syrian teachers demand better salaries in rebel-held areas

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ALEP – Areas under the control of the Turkish-backed opposition in the Aleppo countryside have seen protests in recent weeks in which hundreds of workers and teachers have participated.

The protesting teachers have called for an education reform and an increase in their monthly salaries, which are provided by the Turkish government, as their salaries depreciate by the day amid the falling pound exchange rate. Turkish against the US dollar. The teachers’ strike raised concerns about the collapse of the education process in the region.

Protests and strike began on October 14 in several towns in the Aleppo countryside.

On October 19, the local council of the city of al-Bab, as well as the councils of the cities of Qabasin and Bazza in the Aleppo countryside, threatened the teachers who went on strike with their salaries reduced and with ‘be sacked if they continue to strike.

On the same day, a teachers ‘union was announced to organize the teachers’ protest movement.

On October 20 in the city of al-Bab, protesting teachers called for an improvement in the education process and called teachers “protectors of the revolution and of those who achieve its goals.”

Activists and media professionals expressed their support for teachers on social media sites, while religious and business organizations, local actors and others announced their solidarity with teachers.

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The town of Azaz, in the countryside of northern Aleppo, witnessed a demonstration on October 21 in support of the teachers’ strike. Strikes also took place in several other towns, including Marea, Afrin, Sawran, Akhtarin, Jarablus and in camps for internally displaced persons.

On October 23, teachers announced in a statement that they were going on partial strike after being pressured by the education directorates of Turkish-backed local councils and threatened with dismissal if they continued their strike. opened.

The statement said teachers will now “go from an open strike to a partial strike, and the peaceful movement must continue as work resumes on October 25”.

Omar Laila, spokesperson for teachers in camps for internally displaced persons in the Azaz countryside, told Al-Monitor: “Workers in the education sector are suffering from the depreciation of their monthly salaries, which are no longer sufficient to meet their needs. cover living expenses. and the needs of their families.

He added: “The monthly salary of a teacher is 750 Turkish Liras, which is equivalent to $ 78. This amount barely covers a week’s need for a teacher. Teachers must receive a monthly salary of at least 2,000 Turkish Liras ($ 210) in order to meet the basic needs of their families.

On October 26, the dollar was trading against 9.55 Turkish lira, according to Doviz.com, which lists exchange rates and currencies.

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Teachers in the Aleppo countryside suffer from poverty and insufficient salaries, forcing them to venture into other fields, namely construction, porterage and agriculture, in exchange for low salaries.

Mohammed Bakour, a teacher at a school in Marea, told Al-Monitor: “My family consists of five members, which means that I need more than 1,500 Turkish Liras ($ 157) per month to cover the costs. my household needs.

“I receive a monthly salary of 750 Turkish Liras from the school and have to work outside of school hours in various occupations, such as construction and porterage, in exchange for a daily salary that does not exceed $ 2 or $ 3. Otherwise, it’s just impossible to get out of it, ”Bakur said. “Most of my fellow teachers have also ventured into other professions to make ends meet.

Mohammed al-Mustafa, a teacher from al-Bab city, said Al-Monitor teachers face several challenges. “Chief among these is the low monthly salary and the inability of local educational institutions to support teachers. “

He added: “The aim of the protests is to improve the level of education, improve the conditions of the teacher, guarantee the rights of the teacher and provide good schools capable of offering educational facilities. and to accommodate a large number of students.

Mahmoud Qassem, a civilian activist in Azaz, told Al-Monitor: “The demands of teachers are legitimate and we must help them obtain their rights and increase their salaries as this negatively affects the educational process. Teachers who have had to take second jobs cannot do well in school, which means our children will inevitably be hurt. “

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Turkish government support for education in opposition areas in Aleppo dates back to April 2017, after Operation Euphrates Shield ended. Teachers would receive a monthly salary of no more than 500 Turkish Lira, which at the time was around $ 150.

In the second half of 2018, the Turkish lira fell against the dollar and teacher salaries were no longer sufficient to make ends meet. End of 2018.

The Turkish government responded to requests at the time and in early 2019 the salaries of all employees in the region – whether they worked in local councils or mosque imams, among others – were increased. Teachers’ salaries have been increased by 50%, bringing them to 700 Turkish Lira (currently $ 73) for a single teacher and to 750 Turkish Lira (currently $ 78) for a married teacher.

In mid-2020, the Syrian opposition began using the Turkish lira instead of the Syrian pound in areas under its control in northwestern Syria. Teacher salaries began to decline amid rising prices for goods. Things got worse recently after the Turkish lira plunged again against the dollar.