Radiozamaneh – On the occasion of the reopening of schools in Iran, Zamaneh Media has published a special labor report on numerous challenges that COVID-19 imposes on the Iranian education system and teachers, continuous violations of teachers’ rights, and the demands of the teachers.
On 5 September 2020, despite the concerns and warnings about COVID-19, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, rang the bell to start the 2020-2021 academic year. Many teachers and parents were concerned that the high population density in poorly ventilated classrooms, lack of personal protective products, and contradictory protocols will put teachers and students at risk and further add to the spread of the virus.
Taking classrooms to the virtual space is also a challenge in Iran considering how costly and slow the internet is and how unequal access to hardware and software facilities are for the Iranian students.
In response to these problems, the Teachers Union of Tehran released a statement calling the decision to reopen schools “early and hasty.” The union (with the official name of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association) criticized the Ministry of Education’s conduct and said that the Ministry does not have adequate infrastructure and facilities to comply with health standards.
Teachers have demanded personal protection equipment, manageable classroom sizes, and standard regulations. The COVID-19 demands are raised while the government has ignored the teachers’ demands for a fair wage and better work conditions for years.
Download the Labor Rights Special Report on Teachers and Reopening of Schools in Iran:
Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association as well as other teachers’ associations in different cities have for years asked for adequate salaries following the cost of living in Iran and supplementary health insurance. Teachers’ who are working on temporary contracts demand better contractual agreements.
Active and retired teachers are worried about the supply of shares of the Teachers Reserve Fund in the stock market as well. Payment of end-of-service bonuses in installments has also caused dissatisfaction among teachers
Iranian teachers’ have also consistently opposed the privatization of education in the country. The process of outsourcing education to the private sector, and in fact, “removing teachers” from the education structure, has intensified in recent years. According to Hamid Reza Haji Babaei, the head of the Parliament’s Cultural Fraction, the Ministry of Education is facing a shortage of 300,000 workers at the beginning of the new school year. Nevertheless, the Ministry is not going to hire teachers or offer permanent contracts to those working as educators on hourly wages.
From 2018 until today, active and retired teachers, contractual and formal teachers, preschool teachers, and Literacy Movement educators have repeatedly gathered and conducted sit-ins to protest in front of governmental institutions across the country voicing the above demands. The protests are happening even though the Islamic Republic of Iran does not allow independent syndicate activities for teachers and does not recognize their right to strike and protest.
Police and security forces have repeatedly cracked down on teachers’ gatherings. According to the Teachers’ Union of Iran (Tehran), security and judicial officials summoned, arrested, interrogated, tried, and imprisoned more than 60 teachers, in the first half of 2019 alone.