By: Abdullah Alkhalaf
Sumaya (alias name) received her monthly wage as a teacher in Raqqa. “The salary vanished within two weeks” said Sumaya.
The average of a young teacher’s salary is 1,100,000 SYD which is approximately equivalent to $80. Sumaya tells us the amount is barely adequate to secure bread and some essential food items, particularly with the deterioration of SYD. Sumaya decided to abandon using transportation and walk 5 kms to school instead.
Sumaya says “Teachers are unfairly paid in NES and no one feels their suffering. Most of them are looking for an additional job to secure their living. Now, I am learning sewing which will definitely have a negative impact on my job as a teacher”.
The harsh living reality of teachers is reflected on their performance, according to Sumaya. “A teacher is not able to focus on his/her career nor to give students with his/her full capacity. Teachers are occupied with thinking how to secure milk and medicines for their children, and to provide new clothes instead of old ones. Therefore, education status will deteriorate more in the upcoming period unless teachers’ salaries are increased.”
Ibrahim (alias name), 28 years, is a math teacher; because of the low wage, he decided to find an additional job and then he opened a fuel kiosk near his house. When his new work started to generate adequate money for him, he resigned from his job as a teacher.
“I regret going to university and wasting years in studying and learning for vain. If I had worked in fuel trading ten years ago, I would have owned a car, a house, and a farm by now”, said Ibrahim.
Despite of this, it deeply saddens Ibrahim that teachers, according to him, who are supposed to be the most important workers in a state as they are the base of society, are receiving low wages. “If we want to rebuild our country, we need to seriously consider status of teachers, and increase their wages to enable them live in dignity”, he said.
According to Teachers Union, there are 5,245 teachers in Raqqa. Low wages are not the only problem facing teachers. Ibrahim believes teachers are not receiving the required appreciation in the meantime, and they are mostly the weakest link in the education sector.
According to Ibrahim, several incidents of assaults on teachers have occurred and no entity has provided protection for them. He said, “at the school where I used to work, one of the teachers had expelled a student from the school and summoned his parent because the student had already assaulted his peers. When the student’s parent showed up at the school, he talked rudely to the teacher and then attacked her. He also beat the school principal. We submitted a complaint on the parent who violated the school premises, but no response came through”.
Under the UN Human Rights Declaration, paragraph 3 of clause #23 states “everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection”.
Despite the dire situation of teachers in the areas of the Autonomous Administration, it is still better compared to the teachers working at the Regime schools. Saria (alias name) is from Raqqa and she is a teacher at one of the Regime schools in al-Sabkhah located in the eastern countryside of Raqqa. She has to travel for a distance of 35 kms three times a week to commute to her school.
She spends third of her salary, which is 350,000 SYD, only on transportation. She is aware that whatever remaining from her salary is barely adequate for buying one meal. However, she does not want to quit the job she likes despite all bad conditions. She says “working as a teacher has become a voluntary work. The salary is absurd and definitely not adequate for affording anything. My husband is the one who works and makes a living, and I take my personal allowance from him; without him, I could have not continued working”.
On his side, Abdulfattah Almashour, the Co-president of Teachers Union in Raqqa, says that the Union has submitted requests several times to increase teachers’ wages. Recently, the Autonomous Administration has issued a resolution to increase wages of the Administration workforce including teachers.
He adds that the Union provides a package of services for teachers. This includes defending them, representing them for judiciary departments, and providing health care through the Social Solidarity Fund affiliated with the Union. He adds “health care covers 35% discount of the total cost of surgical operation a teacher or his kin has. For married teachers, in includes the teacher, spouse, and children whereas for single ones, it includes the teacher, and parents”.
The Union also offers 15% off on hospital entrance invoice, and for each teacher, a “health” registration booklet that includes 12 check-in visits was allocated. The Union handles coverage of 25% of each check-in visit conducted by the teacher or kin.
On October 5 of each year, World Teachers’ Day is celebrated. Also, presidents of three UN agencies and another partner organization issued a joint statement on World Teachers’ Day last year. This statement mentioned that ‘teachers are the core of education process, and their salaries and work conditions should be improved as a reward for the valuable work they do’.