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Protesting teachers, students call for online education halting

  2021-04-21  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Protesters, most of them schoolteachers, demonstrate against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for delays in paying their salaries, Sulaimani province, Iraqi Kurdistan, Sept. 27, 2016. Photo by Al-Monitor
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – Amid rising calls for the cancelation of the online education, a group representing the anti-government protesting teachers expressed their immediate rejection to the kind of education and calling on the government to put an end to salary cuts.

On March 10, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) decided to halt in-classroom education and turned back to virtual learning for all but twelfth graders amid a surging number of COVID-19 cases in the Kurdistan Region. 

Several students have voiced their opposition to the decree citing difficulty to obtain high-quality internet connection to afford access to the online education platform installed by the KRG Ministry of Education.

The protesting teachers accuse the KRG of using the halting as a leverage to quash teachers’ demand for a full pay following the rise of the global oil prices and an agreement with Baghdad for flows of budget transfers to the Kurdistan Region for paying the KRG’s bloated wage bill.

KRG and the federal government reached a deal in the late March about the former's duties under the terms of the 2021 federal budget law and Baghdad's financial obligations to the Kurdistan Region. 

“No excuses have remained for extending the illegal deed and apparent theft naming salary cuts done against the public sector employees,” the Protesting Teachers All-out Council said on Wednesday (April 21). 

“We will reject the so-called online education with the current manner and we think its disadvantages are more than its advantages,” it said. “The best solution is the opening of the schools with providing protective health measures.”

The council also called for the resumption of promoting the public sectors’ ranks, warning they will go on strike again if their demands are not met by the authorities. 

On Wednesday, a number of students protested in front of Sulaimani Education General Directorate of Education and called for the resumption of in-classroom classes citing their difficulty in online education. 

The council also called for the release of teachers, activists and journalists arrested last summer and autumn in Duhok by the security forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in a move to clamp down on anti-government protesters calling for salary cuts and delays imposed by the KRG. 

In 2016, the KRG introduced several austerity measures to return some cash for the public coffer including a halting to promoting publics sectors' ranks and employment. In 2020, it announced salary cuts to public servants earning over 300,000 Iraqi dinars (205,2) follwing budget freeze by Baghdad. 

The cash-strapped KRG cabinet of Prime Minister Masrour Barzani is still unable to pay its wage bill on in full without cuts following the rise of the global crude oil prices.

Throughout 2020, the KRG missed five months’ worth of salaries to its public servants and paid one in full and slashed others by either eighteen or twenty-one percent citing the COVID-19 pandemic, budget with Baghdad and low oil prices.

The KRG finance ministry has not decided about its mechanism for paying this month's salary so far. 

(Zhyan English)