Over the past several months, Iranian teachers have been holding major protest rallies across the country. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, they have to struggle for their basic rights such as their overdue salaries and job stability.
Has it really come to this? That the very people we entrust with the vital role of educating young people have to devote so much of their time to protest for a better life. How can we ever be sure that they are able to focus on this important work when they’ve spent so much time fretting over how to put food on the table? Or when they’ve only gotten four hours of sleep because they must work two jobs?
The regime’s mismanagement of coronavirus ignites teachers’ protest
Furthermore, the novel coronavirus has exacerbated teachers’ problems. The Department of Education Director for Sabzevar, Khorasan province, admitting that some 15,000 educational staff members in that city alone have contracted coronavirus; something made all the worse because those on part-time contracts do not get medical insurance or even sick pay, even if they have worked there for 15 years.
Teachers on part-time contracts have been one of the biggest forces in this protest movement, paid far less than officially employed teachers, even accounting for hours worked.
The state-run Hamshahri daily wrote: “Part-time teachers, some having 18 years of experience, are receiving four to five million rials per month. This is equal to literally $14.45 to $18. Some part-time teachers are college graduates with Master’s degrees and their salaries amount to just two million rials a month.”
Unsurprisingly, even those on full-time contracts receive just $1,200 annually, which is three times lower than the official poverty line in Iran. It is significantly lower than the average teacher’s salary in Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
In spite of these horrific conditions, teachers must choose between two humiliating options. Signing horrific new contracts that state that they’ve received their salary in full or getting fired. But the teachers have not surrendered, chanting “Decent life and dignity are our legitimate rights”.
Their demands have been the same for the past few years:
- End of oppressive regime policies
- End of discrimination policies
- Payment of wages in full and on time
Of course, the regime cannot and will not address these issues. Therefore, it is dependent on the people to overthrow the regime as they have made clear on multiple occasions is their wish.