Teachers’ strike cancels classes in Egypt

Bedouin boy Ramadan, aged 14, weaves a carpet at a government run carpet school on May 28, 2011 in Sakara, Egypt.

School’s not out just in Yemen.

Egyptian teachers remained on strike at public schools throughout the country for the fourth straight day on Tuesday, canceling classes in a new academic year that began only this week.

The “boycott” of Egypt’s state schools was called by teachers demanding better employment benefits, wage increases, and greater government investment in a notoriously overburdened educational system.

Many of the protesters said they were disappointed at the apparent lack of reform taking place in Egypt’s schools in the 7 months since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.

“The government does not provide enough desks and chairs for the students and they don’t provide enough pay for the teachers,” Abdelhakim Abdelbar, a high school math teacher, told Egypt’s state-funded Al-Ahram Online. “How can I teach the students when they can’t find a place to sit?”

Egyptian school children were set to return to classes on September 17.

The teachers’ strike, however, has reportedly led to school closures throughout the nation - including the entire Sinai Peninsula, parts of the northern Delta, and even into the far reaches of Egypt’s Western Desert.

(More from GlobalPost in Cairo: Video emerges of teacher beating students in Egypt)

More than half of all government schools in Egypt’s rural areas have been affected by the strike, according to the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

“I do understand that my teachers are in a tough position and that they are paid very low wages for the amount of time and energy they spend on us,” high school student Walaa Ahmed told Al-Ahram Online. “I still come to school hoping they will start teaching soon. I don’t blame them for anything though; that’s what we had a revolution for.”

Egypt’s ministry of education, which believes that less than 3 percent of schools have been closed by protests, reportedly offered some concessions to “protect the dignity” of Egyptian teachers.

The government announcement, however, has done little to quell the strikes.

A “million-man” protest by Egyptians teachers has been called for later this week.