Teachers protest outside of the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
“Our teachers are doing sacred work every day. We must cherish them every hour, every day, every year,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett told educators ahead of National Teacher’s Day on Monday.
This is the fifth year that the day will be observed with the aim of showing appreciation to educators from preschool through higher education and strengthening their standing in Israeli society. The day was organized by a number of partners, including the Education Ministry, student and parent organizations, municipalities, schools, NGOs and local businesses.
As part of the celebrations, students are given the opportunity to thank their favorite teachers by decorating their schools with balloons and giant banners, organizing breakfasts for their teachers, and sending personalized thank you cards, flowers and gift baskets. “The status of the teacher must be at the top of the national pyramid,” said Bennett. “So we will continue to worry about their status and [working] conditions, and in doing so will raise their salaries so that they can continue their sacred work with a sense of satisfaction and recognition.”
The day came on the heels of what has been an ongoing battle between teachers and the Education and Finance Ministries over violence in schools, low salaries and poor working conditions. The Teachers Association has been striking since November 12, with different high schools shutting down in a handful of municipalities and school networks each day. The actions have already affected tens of thousands of pupils, with no clear end in sight.
Association chairman Ran Erez issued a list of clarifications last week and instructed educators that on strike days teachers are forbidden to hold class or any other school-related activities, such as meetings or field trips. Otherwise, he said, they were not to administer any exams or give out any grades, including the Meitzav standardized tests.
Erez emphasized that the purpose of the strike was to improve the salary and working conditions of high school teachers.
The teachers are asking for an immediate increase in their starting monthly salary to NIS 8,000 and raises of NIS 1,000 to 2,000 per month for senior teachers. In addition, the association is demanding added payment for office hours, additional job positions and work done outside the classroom.
So far, the Finance Ministry has agreed to the teachers’ demands. However, it has yet to comment on when the changes will take effect. Additionally, a nationwide teachers’ strike that would have affected some 700,000 pupils was canceled after Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuav promised to expedite a bill aimed at ending violence against teachers.
The strike was called after a student in Tel Sheva knocked a local high school teacher unconscious last month.
Sarah Levi contributed to this report.