independent teachers union (ISTT) – Egypt
Are you a teacher? Do you have dreams related to your profession? Do you see yourself as the sole owner of truth and knowledge? Do you seek to receive your knowledge and absolute facts from the president and the minister of education together with the minister of interior affairs? Do you dream of pouring the facts you possess and knowledges you have into the minds and spirits of the coming generations? Do you dream of having 85 children per classroom sitting amazed and influenced by those holly wards and signals said or sent by you? Do you see yourself as an ascetic oracle working for the regime? Then, the best place to have a successful job is Egypt.
There is a triangle dominating the school system in Egypt where the base is authoritarianism and the two sides are privatization and recycling the past.
In the early 1990th, Mubarak held a conference calling for education reform during which he stated that education is a national security matter. Following to that statement, newly appointed teachers were obliged to get a state security police certificate that the proposed teacher is politically clean.
A new sector was created called the Central Security office headed by a General from the Intelligence office. Each educational zone had a representative called political contact person. Each education local zone had a representative and each school had a representative. The representatives at school level were merely teachers. The main task was to write reports about all the teachers and even students (at secondary schools).
That was justified as a way to fight terrorism.
If any teacher had opposing political points of view or was an activist he was to be not allowed to teach and was transferred to a faraway city and was to be put in an office not contacting any students. If a teacher wrote or spoke to the media discussing the circumstances he worked in, he was to have the same punishment. During that period, graduates from faculties of education were obliged to teach inside the country for at least 5 years. A young teacher started his career for about 10 dollars per month. They earned their living by forcing the students to take private lessons of course.
During Nasser’s regime a teacher would have been permitted to be a candidate for the teachers syndicate only if he had been an active member of the Arab Socialist Union (the sole political party then and which is no longer existing).That is still written in the constitution of the syndicate.
During the 70th and 80th, thousands of Egyptian teachers went to work in the Gulf aria after the big rise in oil prices. They came back with the Wahhabi ideas and thoughts from Arabia and consumer values from the whole Gulf area with a trend to hate scientific thinking and replacing it with theories found in religious books .Meantime, the government stopped building new school paving the way to private sector, private lessons started to be more and more important for the teachers. Parents coming back from the Gulf area were in favor of it as a sign of being rich. Conservative minded teachers were considered as best tutors .
Pictures of the presidents were everywhere at school, e.g.in school books ,on the walls above the black board….etc.
The number of what was military schools(public schools that adopted some military traditions and integrate them in the curricula) increased and also the number of Islamic schools increased as the MB rich members started to invest huge amounts of their money in education benefitting from the fact that the Government had stopped building new schools.
In these schools the MB employed teachers affiliated to them or their fans. They adopted a curricula serving their ideology and hierarchy. The authoritarian regime of Mubarak ,in his attempt to weaken all the political parties, allowed the brotherhood to invest in education and health and main time to play a political role in the syndicates. Education then was a victim serving two masters, the authoritarian regime of Mubarak and the religious authoritarianism of the Brotherhood. Though the MB were allowed to play a role in the syndicates, they were forbidden to play any role in the teachers syndicate which has been always dominated by members of NDP. Mubarak’s party). The curricula mixed and reflected both ideologies.
Teachers with political opposing views were transmitted to far away villages and to non-teaching jobs.
The Earthquake that took place in Egypt in 1992 helped the government to raise charities and funds to help overcoming the crisis. They made use of the money to double the number of schools. However, the government started to devote about 10% of the newly built schools for paid education under the name of experimental language schools that adopted same curricula but un English. Meantime, the government stopped appointing new teacher permanently. Teachers could only have temporarily contracts for about 10 USD per month.
What was permanent is the political security domination on education and the competition between the NDP. and the MB. on the minds of children. On the one hand , the government wanted to step back concerning guaranteeing the right to education suppressing any opposition, and on the other hand show they were more conservative than the Brotherhood. They started to give way to rich members in the NDP. to build private schools and international schools blew up. The government themselves started highly paid international schools called (the Nile int. Schools.)
As a result of high repression , the writer of this article was fired from his job as a teacher because he founded an NGO. to advocate the right to free quality education. However, this made him work freely. So, he started calling for an independent teachers union.
The work started in the year 2007 and took 3 years of work to have 500 members and a big struggle to register the union in 2010. During 2011, the union achieved much success, 2 big strikes and many sit ins resulting in reforming the work condition specially for youth teachers.
Since 2013, the state could defeat and invincible every resistance specially organized resistance including of course the teachers newly born union. The government could push some teachers to sneak into the union and split the leadership into to fighting groups.
Also, the writer of the article is accused of receiving funds from abroad to found a union for teachers in a case known as (Case 173 for the year 2011) and as a result his assets is frozen and he has a travel ban.
Now, the founders of the union are trying to make it survive this complicated situation though most .members stopped paying the dues.
Now , the teachers movement is very weak due to two main reasons, 1- high levels of repression and 2- bad work conditions and law wages that forces teachers to turn into private tutors after the school day to feed their children.
It needs great and complicated effort to maintain the current situation waiting for a better moment.
The nineties and the DNP privatization methodology
The 20th and the movement.