CAIRO: Minister of Education Ahmed Gamal Al-Din Moussa ruled out the success of a planned strike by teachers on Sept. 17, the first day of the academic year.
Teachers are demanding Moussa’s resignation and better pay, while he said he would be happy to be relieved of responsibilities at the ministry.
Moussa said this isn't the first call for a strike, adding that he trusts teachers' sense of responsibility toward their students and public interest, refuting accusations against him of compliancy.
"What was said about me depriving teachers of deserved incentives are total lies; I have been continuously pressuring the minister of finance and prime minister for teachers to receive reward incentives like other government workers," Moussa said in a conference Monday.
Teachers are demanding the dismissal of Moussa, a minimum wage of LE 3,000 and the promised 200 percent reward incentive without cuts.
Moussa said that according to the law, total incentives received by employees must be 200 percent; however, he wanted to dissociate exam incentives from the 200 percent reward incentive.
"I was told by Minister of Finance Hazem Al-Beblawy that he cannot allocate money for these incentives because of a 9 percent budget deficit. We formed a committee and agreed with Cabinet that the PM will issue a decision to pay teachers an extra incentive according to their status," he said.
The Ministry of Finance had decided to finance a 200 percent reward incentive promised to all government employees from the budget allocated to exams’ incentives and the teachers’ cadre. The latter entails taking proficiency exams. The teachers want to get all promised incentives and are also demanding raising the retirement incentive.
The Cabinet and Ministry of Finance had decided against paying the 200 percent reward incentive to teachers in full and stipulated the reward as following: 75 percent to assistant teachers, 50 percent for teachers and 25 percent for expert teachers.
Prior to the new incentives, the least paid teachers — assistant teachers — received 160 percent incentives; now they receive 235 percent.
Demands also include issuing legislation criminalizing private tutoring, cancelling the "insulting" teacher cadre, permanently appointing all teachers currently on temporary contracts, appointing all graduates of the faculties of education within a determined timeframe and participating in the development of the education system.
Moussa said that the ministry is promoting more than 600,000 teachers who have the required years of experience without having them sit for teachers’ cadre exams, relying instead on reports and training courses.
They have also changed regulations to allow the appointment of teachers who passed three years and extending the contracts of those who did not.
Teachers said the minister has kept corrupt leaders in their posts at the ministry and allowed the head of the security administration to continue acting as an "intelligence officer" targeting activist teachers.
"I changed positions based on their competences. I am not hanging on to my post but I can't be unfair to anyone and that was the reason I quit the same post in the past," Moussa, who served as Minister of Education between 2004 and 2005, said.
He also announced the inauguration of the first secondary school for talented students in math and science in Cairo.
"We aim not at having scientist and researcher graduates but we want to apply the [same] teaching methods based on problem solving in ordinary schools," Moussa said.
The school accepted 140 out of 1,200 students who achieved a score of above 98 percent in preparatory school after math, science and IQ tests. Teachers at the school will receive training by university professors who will also lecture there.
The ministry signed agreements with the faculties of science and engineering at Cairo University and the British University to accept graduates of the school.
Moussa also announced modifications to the evaluation system of primary school students to allow them to choose two practical activities from 10 to be added to the general grade.
He noted that the school year will witness disruptions because of the elections set to take place over three phases between October and December.