Since 31 May teachers in Afghanistan have been on continuous strike to demand that they are properly paid.
As Solidarity went to press the teachers had been on strike for two weeks.
The strike started in Kabul where it shut as many as 80 schools (the government claim 27) but spread across the country in rolling action affecting 18 out of the 34 provinces.
Afghani teachers are the lowest paid public servants and often have to wait months before receiving their salaries due to the government’s permanent financial problems and incompetence.
There are 200,000 teachers in Afghanistan and they are among the lowest paid in the world earning between 7000 and 18000 Afghanis or £80-145 per month.
One of the issues in the dispute is a promise by the President Ashraf Ghani to increase teachers’ salaries and provide them with a piece of land. Ghani has broken these promises or offered poor and unproductive land which leaves teachers in poverty. He also promised to establish a commission which would provide loans for teachers so that they can buy homes.
One striking teacher Amadullah Alkozai from Kabul’s Ghazi High School told Associated Press that he had been teaching for 27 years and still had no home. “I am so upset for my students that the school is closed, but I had no other choice,” he said, adding that the strike will continue until the teachers’ demands are met.
The newly elected leader of the national teachers’ council Fazel Ahmad Fazel said that “All our demands are legitimate and we will not attend classes until we get our rights. We are very sad because of our students, but this government has left us no other choice.”
Afghanistan itself is an extremely poor country in which 36% of its 30 million people live below the poverty line. Education is a vital tool for raising people above poverty and developing society. In Afghanistan, however, teachers work with children starting from a very low base with 76% illiteracy and, according to Unicef, two million children working in brick making, carpet weaving, construction, mining, farming and other jobs. Children and teachers have found themselves under assault from the Taliban who have bombed schools and attempted to prevent girls from accessing education as well as from Western military forces whose occupation and drone attacks have ravaged the land and been responsible for thousands of deaths.
During the occupation money seemed to be no object to the US in particular. According to their own government sources $104bn was spent on reconstruction and infrastructure projects while the war cost over $700bn.
This makes it all the more outrageous that US foreign aid to Afghanistan was halved from 2014.