Contract teachers protesting last year in Lebanon

Teachers in Lebanon supported a strike in huge numbers yesterday, in defiance of threats by the education minister Bou Saab. The co-ordinating committee of public sector worker unions backed down on the strike, after Saab threatened to take action against those taking part, but his words only strengthened the determination of the teachers, 90% of whom came out on strike according to reports.

The leader of the public sector teachers union said: 'We would really like to thank Bou Saab for his threats that prompted all teachers to participate in (Tuesday's) strike. . . Threats like these risk the transformation of Lebanon's system from democratic to dictatorial.' The public sector teachers were also joined by their private school colleagues, whose leader said: 'We will teach and we will protest. We won’t stop demanding our rights'.

There have been widespread protests over the last period in Lebanon about the disfunctional nature and corruption of the government and its failure to run the public sector, a situation indicated graphically by the huge piles of garbage uncollected and piling up in the streets.

Teachers in the country have been involved in a long campaign for pay justice, criticising the government for its pro-rich policies while the public sector bears the brunt of austerity measures. In the background is the International Monetary Fund, which continues to press structural adjustment on the country. In its latest press release it advises 'caution in implementing a salary-scale adjustment for public-sector employees.' As well as coping with low pay and low education spending, Lebanese teachers are also dealing with a mass influx of refugees, fleeing the carnage in Syria, who now make up 25% of the population.