Thousands of senior high school teachers took to the streets of Tunis on Wednesday to demand better pay and conditions at a time when the government is reeling under pressure from international donors to cut spending. From various provinces of Tunisia, the teachers gathered in front of the education ministry chanting ‘’ no to the humiliation of teachers’ and ‘ the people want fiscal justice’.
They called for the resignation of sector minister, Hatem Ben Salem, whom they blamed for stalled negotiations. “Our demands were reduced to just monetary demands. Yes, of course we have wage demands, but we also want other things. The most important of which is the protection of free education, the protection of students and their institutions, as well as a law that protect teachers as well. As teachers we do not have laws to govern us, and even today we gathered here without a political party backing us, but regardless, one thing unites us and that is defending our rights”, said Gihan Hamdy, a teacher.
‘‘We demand educational reform and an improvement in our wages. Our (teachers) purchasing power has deteriorated, these are the two most important demands. The most pressing demand is that the minister (of education) or prime minister present us with solutions to our requests’‘, said high school teacher, Mounir Elmeely.
Tunisia has been in turmoil since the toppling of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 in the first ‘Arab Spring’ uprising. In 2016, the North African nation struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund on a loan program with about $ 2.8 billion that required steps to cut chronic deficits and trim bloated public services. But progress has been slow.