BEIRUT — The president of the Union of Private School Teachers, Nehmeh Mahfoud, on Monday announced a one-day initial strike to begin Tuesday but may possibly be extended.
The announcement followed multiple protests by public school teachers in Beirut and South Lebanon on Monday morning. Among their demands is a broadband salary increase to meet hyperinflation caused by the rapid depreciation of the national currency.
After a meeting with Education Minister Abbas Halabi, Mahfoud said the union would decide on Tuesday whether to extend the strike.
Earlier in the day, the union leader told L'Orient-Le Jour the private teachers have four demands:
"We demand five liters of fuel for teachers per day, just like in public schools," Mahfoud began. "A part of the teacher's salary should also be paid in dollars. Private schools that fixed the dollar rate at LL30,000 should now raise it to LL90,000. The LL10 billion approved by the cabinet for the retirement fund should be paid."
"Tomorrow we will go on strike unless our demands are met," Mahfoud continued.
Earlier on Monday, dozens of public secondary school teachers held multiple sit-ins in the capital Beirut, and in Nabatieh and Saida, South Lebanon, to voice their opposition to deteriorating salaries and lack of government assistance, L’Orient Today’s correspondents reported.
In Beirut, around 200 public school teachers protested in front of the Education Ministry, carrying banners calling for better health coverage and improved salaries after the severe drop in the value of their incomes due to the depreciation of the national currency.
'The country has been robbed'
The teachers also protested against the League of Public School Teachers that on March 5 announced an end to the teachers' strike, which had been ongoing since January, before the demands of teachers had been met.
Protester Nasser Abdallah told L’Orient Today’s photographer on the scene, Mohammad Yassin, that “public servant’s salaries have not been raised despite the dollarization that is taking place in all sectors across the country. The league decided to end the strike without consulting with the teachers first.”
Abdallah stated that the country “has not gone bankrupt, it has been robbed.”
The resumption of classes in public schools in Lebanon, announced by two different unions last week after a two-month strike, was boycotted by some teachers, who are refusing to teach until they have won a series of demands, several teachers and union leaders contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour said.
Protests in southern Lebanon
In the south of the country, dozens of secondary school teachers in Nabatieh also held a protest, assembling in front of the Grand Serail and then marched towards Banque du Liban, carrying banners demanding improved living conditions, according to L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the region.
Abd al-Rahman Makki, a teacher, stressed that “just demands have been submitted to the Minister of Education,” stating that the ministry should secure health coverage for the teachers.
In Saida, dozens of secondary education teachers, who are continuing their strike, also staged a sit-in in front of Marouf Saad's middle school.
Teacher Faten Dalal spoke on behalf of the protesters and confirmed that “the teachers will continue to strike until their demands are met,” L’Orient Today’s correspondent reported.
Public sector teachers have been hit hard by Lebanon's more than three-year-old economic crisis. Since the beginning of January, teachers have been demanding a salary increase and transport allowances, as well as medical aid.
On Feb. 27, the caretaker cabinet approved a proposal to grant teachers additional support by subsidizing 5 liters of fuel per teacher per working day. This decision was deemed insufficient by public school workers who have not yet received salaries due since the beginning of the year.
Reporting contributed by Muntasser Abdallah