Iraq: Union call for urgent solutions as teachers haven't been paid in months

published 22 January 2024 updated 25 January 2024

Painting a bleak picture of the situation of the education system and teachers in the Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU) President Abdulwahed Mohammad Haje presented his union demands to solve the ongoing issues.

Following his call for the Ministry of Education to improve training offered to teachers in this Iraqi region and suggesting ways to do it, the KTU leader took stock of the poor condition of teachers and the education system.

Iraqi Kurdish teachers’ dire situation

According to KTU:

  • Teachers in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have not received their salaries since last October 2023.
  • Due to an order from the Kurdistan Regional Government, teacher salary promotions have been halted since January 1st, 2016.
  • There are thirty-five thousand lecturers in Kurdistan's schools. They have worked for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq's educational system for several years. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education declines to employ them, and their years of work are not formally considered.
  • From 2015 until now, only 24 salaries with their bonuses have been given to teachers.
  • The Kurdistan administration has failed to pay teachers on schedule. All the reasons mentioned above have harmed the educational process in Kurdistan, as well as teachers.

As a result, over 70,000 teachers have stopped teaching in 3,000 schools, and over 700,000 pupils have dropped out of the educational system. Teachers continue their work stoppage and demonstrating.

For Haje, teachers were most angered by the fact that governmental officials did not come and listen to them to discuss how to solve their problems. If they did meet with teachers, he said, it was just to make them go back to their schools.

“The education process is in tremendous danger for this year, because, while the academic year is half done, no lessons have been taught by teachers, except some for grade 12 students.”

Acknowledging that the Government of Kurdistan has ongoing disputes with the Federal Government of Iraq regarding the budget and financial issues, he said that some financial shortages in education are of the responsibility of the Government of Kurdistan, and KTU “has done its best to solve the problems, holding many meetings with both ministries of Education and Finance, and submitting recommendations, proposals and suggestions to the presidency of the Council of Ministers, with no positive response so far.”

KTU demands

Haje therefore urged the Iraqi federal government to pay its contribution to the budget of Kurdistan and the salaries of teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education. He also called on the Government of Kurdistan to engage in true dialogue to solve all pending issues and listen to the teachers’ demands, including:

  • Salaries must be paid every 30 days.
  • Teachers must be employed under a proper contract.
  • Teachers promotions must be resumed.
  • Savings must be put on a special bank account for teachers and employees of the Ministry of education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

International solidarity

Education International stands in solidarity with teachers and education personnel in Kurdistan and urges public authorities of Iraq and Kurdistan to consult their representative organisations to ensure their well-being, as well as decent working and living conditions.

It also recognises that the KTU demands are in line with its Go Public! Fund Education campaign, an urgent call for governments to invest in public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education.