Thousands of teachers protest in Ramallah

Published March 8th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
Palestinian teachers have been on strike for four weeks. (AFP/File)
Palestinian teachers have been on strike for four weeks. (AFP/File)

More than 3,000 Palestinian public school teachers rallied outside the Palestinian Prime Minister's office on Monday, demanding new representation in negotiations between teachers and the Palestinian Authority, as teachers entered their fourth week of strike.

An emergency meeting called on Sunday evening ended in a stalemate, as teachers rejected terms laid out by a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian Authority's legislative body.

On Monday, teachers complained that members of the PLO-affiliated teachers' union who had previously resigned on popular demand should not have been present at the meeting.

Teacher at the protest told Ma'an that they accused the union of "thwarting" agreements with the Palestinian government.

During the strike, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah released a statement "reaffirm(ing) his commitment to Palestinian teachers, students and their parents to work on finding an equitable solution to end the teachers' strike, in order for students to return to their classrooms."

"The Palestinian teacher deserves our respect and admiration; however, everyone should put the interest of our children and their education ahead of everything," Hamdallah said.

In regards to the protest, Hamdallah added that "people have the right to express their opinion, this is part of the democratic process," but teachers said checkpoints had been set up by the PA in an attempt to stop teachers from reaching the protest.

Participants who were able to attend the rally raised posters with slogans asserting that teachers would continue with their strike until their demands were met.

Palestinian teachers, who have been on strike since mid-February, are seeking higher salaries as pledged to them by the PA in the 2013 agreement that was never implemented.

The PA has threatened to take legal action against the teachers if they do not return to work immediately, with Hamdallah saying earlier this month that they have a "responsibility" to their students.

A number of teachers have now been detained by PA security forces, who have also sought to prevent the teachers from convening at demonstrations by installing checkpoints across the West Bank and threatening public transportation drivers carrying teachers to protests.

The strike marks one of the largest demonstrations against the PA in recent years, with 20,000 teachers marching in Ramallah last month, and it has exposed a divide in Palestinian society, with several small attacks taking place in recent days.

Last week, a Hebron teacher was attacked with pepper spray over her support for the protest, and on Thursday, gunshots were fired on the homes of two more teachers -- one supporting the strike, the other opposing it.

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