Ivory Coast: primary school teachers continue strike

Closed school in Chigate

The strike, which originally began in November and was suspended in January, came back into effect on the 14th of June.

The basic demand of the teachers is an increase in the allowance that they are paid towards accomodation. The planned budget for this year gives teachers 30000 CFA Francs (£29:50) a year. Average monthly wages in Ivory Coast are estimated at CFA 26200, although due to civil problems all figures are unreliable.

MIDD (movement for the defence of teachers' rights) which called the strike has been picketing strongly and in some schools MIDD supporters have ended scabbed lessons. They are also demanding that agreements won in last year's strike are made official by decree.

Due to the rebellion in the north, which drove the government out and left banks closed, workers are often forced to travel to collect their wages. One teacher claimed the trip which he makes every three or four months, cost him 25-30% of the wages he collects.

Unicef has called on the strikers to return to work, claiming that teachers must try to undo the mistakes of the past for the sake of their students. However while Unicef and other organisations are calling on for increased enrollment the IMF has limited the education wage bill to a fixed, and decreasing, percentage of GDP. Knowing that their wages are under such strict pressures teachers have chosen to focus on winning an increase in the allowance.

On Tuesday Mme Doumbia Salimata, the head of the National Primary School Teachers' union (SNEPPCI), called on teachers to return to work, however the strike remained solid across most of the country, although in some of the villages teaching has continued almost uninterrupted.

On Wednesday M.Gilbert Bleu Lainé, the minister of education, gave a 72-hour ultimatum to strikers, threatening to suspend strikers. Friday was also the deadline by which students were supposed to have taken exams, the results of which determine whether they can enter secondary school, delaying these exams is one of the strongest methods of applying pressure open to teachers.

Five members of MIDD, arrested on Tuesday in Bouaflé , are still currently being held. Mesmin Comoé, co-ordinator for MIDD claimed that the government was trying to blackmail teachers by stating that their release was conditional on the ending of the strike. He said that striking teachers were instead planning to march on Bouaflé.