Thursday, March 27, 2003

The teachers have started their sanctions. School started at nine o'clock today, instead of eight o'clock. The new government economic plan calls for the dismissal of 6000 teachers. I don't know if they plan to give early retirement to some of the older, burnt-out teachers, or sack the younger ones, but I can think of one or two teachers in my girls' school that I would not be heartbroken if I didn’t see teaching next year.

I find it very difficult to feel empathy for the teachers' plight. They may not make very much money, but they don't work very much either (they boast a twenty four hour week, nearly half the national amount, and they work eight months a year, and that's on a year they don't go on too many strikes, and don't tell me they have all those exams to mark after school hours, I won't be impressed). Some teachers make a small fortune supplementing their salaries with unreported private tutoring. Besides pocketing (stealing?) what they should be paying as income tax for this, as I see it, this practice gives them incentive to be bad teachers in school in the morning (no fear of being sacked, they have job permanence). If little Adi can't understand what Shula the math teacher is talking about, her parents will be forced to fork out for private tuition (and it's very expensive). What a coincidence, Shula just happens to know of a very good teacher who could be of assistance... and what do you know, the very good teacher also has some students who need help. Maybe Shula would be so kind... A very profitable arrangement. I think it's not as straight forward as that, these days (have teachers of late grown some shame or is it the Education Ministry making a feeble attempt at curbing the phenomenon?), but that's how it worked in my day. And I suppose the logic hasn't really changed. Of course, many parents can't afford this blood letting, so this creates a situation whereby only the relatively reasonably-salaried can afford a decent education for their offspring (so much for free and equal schooling for all). So, no, I don't have much empathy for teachers, although we've been very lucky with the girls' class teachers in recent years (Why should I feel lucky? Don't our children deserve good teachers? Must it be a matter of potluck?).

The teachers’ sanctions will probably soon mature into a full-blown strike. This is a real torment for parents who aren't as fortunate as the teachers with their unparalleled work conditions and actually have to put in a full day's work all year round (give or take a bit for what's known as "Shabbatot ve hagim" - Saturdays and religious holidays). Let's hope the teachers manage to muster up some uncharacteristic restraint and wait till the end of the war in Iraq before they commence with their fun and games.

*I would like to point out that most teachers I know personally are lovely people, dedicated to their vocation. I am very happy with my girls’ school on the whole, and haven’t really got much of an axe to grind. But being a full-time working mother, The Teachers, as a powerful political group, continue to p$#s me off no end.