Teachers in the areas controlled by the internationally recognized government have entered a closed circle of suffering due to the consequences of the war and conflict in Yemen since 2015, which have had devastating effects, most notably the collapse of the national economy and the local currency, and the rise in the poverty rate to more than 80%.
Recently, the suffering has intensified, with the interruption of teachers' salaries since last August and transferring them from the first item as 'wages and salaries' to the fourth item as 'grants and donations', which means that their delivery may not be regular.
This comes in light of the deterioration of the economic situation, with which the teacher's salary has become not equal to the amount of 70 dollars, and decreases more and more as the value of the Yemeni riyal continues to decline against foreign currencies.
On the other hand, the step taken by the recognized government, by transferring the salaries of educators to commercial banks, resulted in a delay in the delivery of last month's salary to teachers and educators in the areas under its control, and therefore introduced them again into another spiral and narrowed the circle of suffering for them even more.
In Taiz city (south-western Yemen), teachers have been carrying out protests and marches for days, at a time when teachers had started their strike, demanding to disburse their salaries on time and calling to raise them in line with the current living situation.
“The difficult conditions experienced by female and male teachers, who have become actually poor due to the fact that they do not find their daily sustenance on many days, which have made their hair white, and wrinkles fill their faces within a few years, especially with their untreated illness, malnutrition, in addition to dozens of them suffering from depression, anxiety, and other psychological illnesses due to the instability imposed by the war.”
Likewise, in a similar move, the teachers in Aden (southern Yemen) also began a general strike. Meanwhile, what is known as the “Aden Free Teachers Association” announced the escalation, called for a protest in front of the Ministry of Finance Office, and threatened to take their case to the local administrative courts.
Teachers Dropout and Limited Alternatives
The dire situation of teachers led the teacher Ahmed Abdel Rahman to quit his teaching job five years ago, after his situation became difficult and he found himself unable to support his family of seven children.
He tells “Khuyut”: “I felt the loss of my dignity as the eyes of those from whom I had borrowed money or foodstuffs were watching me. I decided to quit teaching before I was evicted from the simple house in which I live, which I could barely afford the rent of.”
As he continues, "I started working in another field, in construction, and as a porter in some shops, and for the rest of the day I worked for a daily wage as a motorcycle driver, until I was able to overcome my difficult circumstances, even if only slightly." He confirmed that he moves from one job to another whenever he has the opportunity and that he does not feel regret about his decision today.
Similarly, teacher Ali Mohamed is currently experiencing similar circumstances. He said that he was forced to work in private schools besides teaching in the government sector for a small amount of money not exceeding 35 thousand riyals (about 21 dollars), as the exchange rate of the riyal reaches about 1,430 against one dollar in the areas of the internationally recognized government administration.
As Mohammed confirms to "Khuyut," the amount he receives from his work in the government and private sectors does not exceed more than 120 thousand Yemeni riyals; that is, less than $100 in recognized government areas. This is why he decided to stop teaching in light of the decline in the value of these salaries and the irregular disbursement of them, taking into account the record high inflation, commodity prices, and the cost of living.
Further, this teacher points out that he feels sad when thinking about that, as he loved the teaching profession very much and chose it with conviction as his profession. But today, as he confirms, he is no longer able to think emotionally after becoming unable to perform his job due to his inability to concentrate because of the worries that weigh on him and his deteriorating psychological condition.
Female Teachers Too
In addition to male teachers, female teachers also share the same suffering, which is difficult for them to endure or overcome. Samira Abdo, an educator, confirms that it is difficult for her and her colleagues to put pressure on themselves like men and work for two periods or shifts a day in other professions or schools.
In her interview with “Khuyut”, she explains that female teachers have other responsibilities after returning home, such as taking care of the children or the father and mother. Therefore, it is almost impossible to reconcile their obligations and work for two shifts.
Moreover, Abdo continues that the salary for most female teachers is a life, as they have no breadwinner other than themselves, and they are also responsible for others. Therefore, there is no longer even the possibility of buying a new abaya or shoes, except when urgently needed.
Abdo’s speech is also agreed upon by teacher Sabah Al-Shara’bi, who pointed out that many of them spend their salaries on basic necessities, such as medicine, children's education, and food.
“They are legal demands to improve the standard of living of teachers and educators in a way that ensures a decent living for them, the most prominent of which are: disbursing annual bonuses and settlements; increasing the minimum wage; and reforming the wage and salary structure so that the average teacher's salary is equivalent to 500 dollars per month.”
In this context, Al-Sharabi explains to "Khuyut": Most men in Yemen are also suffering from the current economic conditions, and they are no longer able to do their role and support the family on their own. Therefore, the female teacher, whether she is a wife or not, is forced to contribute to basic expenses and not just luxuries for herself, her children, or the house.
According to Al-Sharabi, the difficult conditions experienced by female and male teachers, who have become actually poor due to the fact that they do not find their daily sustenance on many days, which have made their hair white, and also the wrinkles fill their faces within a few years, especially with their untreated illness, malnutrition, in addition to dozens of them suffering from depression, anxiety, and other psychological illnesses due to the instability imposed by the war.
Teachers in many schools in the various governorates under the control of the internationally recognized government continue to escalate their strike, since the start of the new school year in late August 2023, in conjunction with the transfer of salaries to commercial banks.
Herein, Abdulrahman Al-Maqtari, Secretary-General of the Teachers Union in Taiz, says that the strike taking place in some schools is due to the delay in the August salary, blaming the leadership of the local authority responsible for this and for the resulting escalation if the issue is not resolved early with the Ministry of Finance, especially after the new instructions issued by the Ministry.
As for the demands submitted by the Teachers’ Union to the relevant authorities, Al-Maqtari, who spoke to “Khuyut”, describes them as legal demands to improve the standard of living of teachers and educators in a way that ensures a decent living for them, the most prominent of which are: disbursing annual bonuses, settlements, increasing the minimum wage, and reforming the wage and salary structure so that the average teacher's salary is equivalent to 500 dollars per month, expecting that their demands will be met, such as late annual bonuses and the regularization of the status of teachers who were employed in 2011.
Regarding the escalatory steps that the union will resort to, he said that they will include protests and marches, which will be announced at the appropriate time.
On the top of that, Al-Maqtari rules out the possibility of an interruption of salaries, but in return, he calls on the state leadership and the internationally recognized government to work to address the situation of teachers, noting that the coordination between the Union branches and the union components in other governorates is very limited or almost non-existent.
The interruption of education in schools from time to time led many parents to enroll their children in private schools due to the deterioration and irregularity of government public education, as a result of teachers' strikes from time to time or the consequences of the war that led to the destruction and damage of dozens of schools, as well as the displacement of the population.
In this regard, citizen Jalal Al-Maqtari confirms that he enrolled his three sons in a private school near his house, not because of the quality of education there but because of the regularity of education. In addition, the prices of tuition fees there are lower than others, and it is also close to them, so they do not need transportation fares.
"I have no other choice. I cannot grant my sons anything better than educating them under these difficult circumstances, despite the struggle in dealing with the costs of their education fees and paying them with great difficulty, as I work as a taxi driver," he adds.
It is noteworthy that in the middle of 2022, the Yemeni Teachers Syndicate said in a report, reviewed by "Khuyut", that 1,580 teachers and educators were killed and more than 2,642 teachers were injured during the period from October 2014 until December 30, 2021.
Similarly, it is also well known to everyone that teachers in Sana’a have been suffering due to the interruption of salaries for years, as is the case with other employees in the areas controlled by Ansar Allah (Houthis). While many people hope that the negotiations will lead to a breakthrough in the various crises and files being discussed, at the forefront of which is the disbursement of salaries to civilian employees.