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Transforming challenges into opportunities

Oct 07,2019 - Last updated at Oct 07,2019

The country’s longest ever strike has come to an end after the government met the demands of the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA). Reaching a pay deal with the JTA was of great importance for two reasons. First, it ended a one-month long strike. Second, teachers can go back to school with their heads up, a significant matter for them, as they frame their differences with the government as if it was about their dignity.

As officially declared by the government, the crisis was solved, thanks to the orders of His Majesty King Abdullah, who instructed his government to reach the hefty pay deal. Apparently, the King has been following the crisis from the get-go and stepped in when he realised that the country was going into a deep political crisis over the issue. In fact, growing disenchantment among Jordanians over the deteriorating economic situation was translated into wide public support for the demands of the teachers.

Casting aside who won and who lost, I argue that the country has won. First, the whole exercise was an important one, as it demonstrated Jordanians’ ability to express their grievances in a peaceful manner. Key to the success of this endeavour was the professionalism on the part of state institutions in dealing with the strike. The state did not resort to harsh measures to end the strike. Instead, dialogue and the timely intervention of the King have made the difference. The state and society have emerged intact despite the fact that there was a very small minority that tried its best to paint the strike as if it were a means used by the Muslim Brotherhood to squeeze the state and embarrass the government. Did Jordanians believe them? Hardly!

Now, let us get the bottom of the issue. Education in Jordan has suffered over the years. The teachers’ strike should provide an opportunity to pay attention to this important sector, especially when teachers now feel empowered. We need to raise the bar and improve the quality of schools, curricula and teachers themselves. With all the initiatives to improve education in Jordan, the outcome has been disappointing. This is a truth and we have to confess. Therefore, there is a need to change course and empower the teachers’ union to supervise the process of improving the professional level of teachers.

Explicit in the spokesperson of the teachers’ union is the desire to build on this deal to improve the education sector and the living conditions of teachers. While this is a legitimate demand, still, the society as a whole waits for more than declarations. We hope that the success of the teachers in their quest to get a hefty allowance will be a big incentive to prove to Jordanians that they care about the professional track as well.

Difficult as it may look, the teachers’ strike and the crisis have enriched Jordanians’ ability to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. Therefore, there is a bright side in the whole drama, something that should be seen as an opportunity to go forward with no fears.

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